Feeling S.A.D.? What is Seasonal Affective Disorder

Does the cooler weather have you feeling down? It’s common for people to feel more sad and lethargic during the autumn and winter, but if it starts to get in the way of your life it may be something more than just feeling blue. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is caused by the changing of the seasons, most common in the fall and winter.

How do you know if you have SAD? If you have any of these symptoms you should contact your doctor:
-Depression/Sadness
-Thoughts of suicide (If you have thoughts of suicide it is essential that you contact a professional)
-Fatigue
-Insomnia
-Social Withdrawal
-Anxiety
-Hopelessness
-Apathy
-Loneliness
-Lack of Interest
-Mood Swings/Irritability
-Lack of concentration
-Change in appetite
-Change in body weight

So, you think you’re feeling SAD? Here are some tips that can help relieve some of the symptoms during the cold months:

See a doctor
Mental health is an important part of your well-being that often goes ignored. There is a taboo associated with mental disorders, making sufferers unwilling to see a doctor. If not treated, mental health can decrease your quality of life in many ways, including but not limited to; poor work quality, stress on relationships, weight gain, premature aging, heart disease, memory loss, and so much more. If you think you may be suffering from a mental disorder it is vital that you see a trained professional. Your mind and body will be glad that you did.

Vitamins
Various studies have found a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and SAD. The sad truth is that many people are vitamin D deficient without knowing. Many doctors will recommend that you take a Vitamin D3 supplement. Keep in mind, vitamin K2 and magnesium can help your body absorb vitamin D properly. You can also get vitamin D through foods such as beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, fatty fish, milk, orange juice, and mushrooms.
Vitamin D is unique in the fact that it can also be absorbed through your skin from sunlight. If you think you might be lacking this vitamin you should try to get as much sunlight as possible. Be aware though, it is possible to overdose on vitamin D. Always talk to your doctor about the vitamins and supplements you use and take the recommended dose.

Be active
Everyone knows that being active has a positive impact on your physical health, but did you know it can greatly affect your mental health as well? Studies have shown that not only will exercising lift your spirits, but may relieve the symptoms of depression, too. The problem is that it is harder to be physically active during the winter months while the cold has you trapped inside your house. So, what can you do?
Joining a gym or club (think Zumba, yoga, etc) is a great option if you are able. Not only will you have a place dedicated to working out, but you get social stimulus. Both factors will make you more likely to stick to your routine. However, not everyone can do this. Whether it’s financial issues or their hectic schedule, some may find it impossible to make it to the gym.
So, now what? You can always get a couple minutes of physical activity in from home. Invite a friend to come to your house a couple times a week. Not only will you both gain the benefits of exercising, but your relationship will be stronger as well. Still not an option? Wake up 15-20 minutes earlier in the morning and do light cardio before you get ready for work. There’s always an option if you are willing to make it work.

Keep warm
Keeping yourself warm is a MUST in the winter! When your body is cold your heart has to go into overdrive in an attempt to keep you warm. This strain increases the risk of heart attack, especially for those who have health complications. Your body has to work hard during the cold months to keep you from freezing. When this happens your immune system can be compromised. A lowered immune system means you can’t fight off sickness and diseases. Autumn and winter are difficult for people who have arthritis and similar diseases. Being cold can increase your pain and simple tasks become harder to do.
Your physical health can greatly influence your mental health and vise-verse. Taking care of both your body and mind is essential for your well-being.

Stay Social
Most of us want to stay inside and hide from the cold during the winter. This makes for a drop in social events and the quality of your relationships. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are social creatures that need interaction with others to stay healthy.
Plan a day of the week that your friends and family can visit one another. You can have one member host a get-together at their homes and rotate each week. When it’s your time to host you have plenty of options for entertainment. You can offer dinner or lunch, wine, movies, painting classes, board games, or whatever you can think up! This would also be a great opportunity to be physically active. Perhaps everyone could do some light yoga?
If your schedule is too busy to host an event, you should at least take some time to go to lunch with a close friend or chat on the phone or webcam. You’d be amazed how much being social can affect your happiness.

Stay positive
You’ve probably heard about “mind over matter” but have you ever tested it for yourself? Studies have found that simply having positive thoughts or saying positive statements can enhance your mood and quality of living. Each day you should take a second to think about something you are grateful for, whether it be your family, friends, pets, health, home, or job. Another way to stay positive is verbal statements. It may seem silly at first, but give it a try. When you wake up in the morning say out loud, “I feel great and I can handle anything today has to offer.” Of course, you can make your own statement. Give it an honest effort and you should notice your spirits rising.

Light therapy
We already know that sunlight is an important factor in your well-being, but with the shorter days in the fall and winter, most find it difficult to get a healthy amount of sun. Many will begin to use tanning beds in an attempt to feel better, but research has shown that tanning beds can be dangerous and potentially cause skin cancer.
There are other options available to you. Light therapy is the use of artificial lights to relieve the symptoms of SAD. They mimic natural sunlight to restore a functional balance of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin has been found to enhance your mood while melatonin affects your circadian rhythms (your bodies routine in which it sleeps, feeds, and produces certain hormones.) You can find companies that sell light therapy devices by doing an online search. There are many different options available, so you can easily find the product that fits your needs and budget.

Don’t let the cold months bring you down. If you feel SAD try these tips to improve your mood and productivity. Always remember, if you think you have a serious mental or physical health disorder you should seek out a professional.