Shades of Blue: Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Cold, dark, desolate landscapes tend to bring about cold, dark, desolate moods in even the sunniest dispositions. This condition is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression and is far more common and far more debilitating than you may realize. SAD manifests itself as a result of the shorter periods of prolonged sunlight that accompany winter time. This lack of Vitamin D messes with our circadian rhythm and throws us into a serious funk.
Most of us are able to stave off the winter blues at least through the holidays, but once the last of the presents have been opened and that New Years’ hangover blissfully resides, the realization that we are still three solid months from spring finally sets in and the depression takes over. If you and/or your roommate has an especially difficult time coping this time of year, here are a few proactive measures you can take to fight off SAD.
Light Therapy Boxes
While standard lighting in your home or apartment might appear to give off a positive glow, the truth is that these bulbs are a shabby imitation of the sun’s light. However, light therapy boxes emit light that closely resembles the natural luminosity of the sun, which can greatly reduce symptoms of Season Affective Disorder. Being in the presence of light therapy for 30 minutes each morning catalyzes your circadian rhythm and also mitigates the release of melatonin, which will make you feel more alert and awake.
Another way to imitate the sun’s natural light is through the use of a “dawn simulator.” These devices act as visual alarm clocks that slowly introduce light in a similar manner as a sunrise. There are several different models available, but the most effective simulators utilize full-spectrum light, which most closely mimics the sun’s light. Dawn simulators are more in line with our primal waking habits, which are based on our circadian rhythm.
Perhaps the most tried and true method of dealing with SAD (or any sort of emotional issues) is therapy. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real condition that can wreak havoc on our daily lives and responsibilities. If you feel that you are overcome by winter’s malaise, schedule an appointment with an experienced and qualified mental health professional. In addition to providing an objective and compassionate ear, a therapist will help discern if you are dealing with SAD or another form of depression and provide you with a series of helpful strategies for coping with your condition.
Sure, the days are shorter, but that’s just another reason to awaken with the sunrise and enjoy as much sunlight as possible. If you’re stuck in the office all day, make sure to get up and stretch your legs at regular intervals. Take a brisk walk at least twice a day or if it’s too cold, go for a quick drive to get your daily ration of sunshine. If you absolutely cannot make it outside, make sure that you are at least getting proper amounts of exercise. Physical activity releases those happy hormones that will help you defeat the winter doldrums.
Regulate Your Sleeping Patterns
It’s easy for our sleeping schedules to get thrown off by the diminished sunlight, but that makes it all the more important to set a consistent sleeping regimen and stick to it. If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s likely because you are waking and rising at varied times. It’s especially important to maintain your sleeping schedule through the weekends. Most of us like to sleep in on our treasured days off, but overindulging will only throw off your sleeping schedule during the week, which will increase your SAD symptoms.
Hiding from the world in a state of quasi-hibernation is a common response the shortened periods of sunlight that come along with winter, but giving into symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder won’t make it go away. You have to remain active and establish consistent sleeping patterns. If that still isn’t helping, consider investing in some therapeutic artificial light sources and seeking out an empathetic ear in the form of a licensed psychologist.