Seasonal Affective Disorder can leave you feeling low on energy, lethargic and down right depressed. It also can attribute to excess winter weight gain. Luckily, there are ways to fight back against SAD.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can ruin months out of your year.
Every winter, when the days get shorter and the nights get longer, anywhere between 14 and 26 percent of Americans show up at their doctors' offices suffering from SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Some have mild cases, which are more akin to a mild case of the doldrums. Others have symptoms that closely reflect those of depression--feeling hopeless, feeling worthless, losing interest in activities that they typically find delightful and even thoughts of hurting themselves.
Doctors believe that SAD is related to decreased sunlight in the fall and winter, which messes with people's biological clocks, reduces the amount of the feel-good chemical known as serotonin in brains and disrupts the levels of melatonin in people's bodies. Added together, it all results in SAD.
But don't fret. If you're feeling down and think you're suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter, there are things you can do to fight off the sadness-inducing disorder. The steps are simple, relatively inexpensive and they could be the difference between spending the winter hiding beneath your blankets and getting out and making the most of it.
Invest in a little light therapy.
A lot of experts believe that SAD is caused at least in part by a lack of sunshine, which delivers Vitamin D to bodies, which in turn stimulates the glands that produce serotonin.
Sunlight, of course, is in short supply during the summer months, but you can still get your daily dose of Vitamin D by buying a "Therapy Box." Therapy Boxes are designed to deliver light that mimics that which comes from the sun. This means you can set your Therapy Box up on your desk, by your couch or even near your bed and get all the Vitamin D you need any time you want it.
Get up and get out.
It's a scientifically proven fact that exercise helps fight depression. And if you do it outside, you're body and mind will receive the added benefit of being in the sunlight (what little there is during the winter months). But hey, even a little sunshine is better than none at all. So get up, get outside and exercise.
SAD can make you want to eat bad. Real bad. The kind of bad that includes entire cartons of ice cream, countless cookies and potato chips that you would normally never think of devouring. Don't do it. Make a point to eat right. Eat plenty of protein and green vegetables, both of which play an important role in helping your body produce serotonin. If you do need a quick pick-me-up, have a sensible amount off candy--but don't go overboard. Eating right will make you feel better emotionally and physically. And when you feel better about yourself, it's harder to come down with the doldrums.
Talk to your doctor.
Too many people suffer from SAD in silence. Maybe they don't believe that what they are feeling is real. Maybe they're embarrassed. Or maybe they don't think they're doctors can help. They can. If you are suffering from SAD--and especially if you are having thoughts of hurting yourself--you should see your doctor. Doctors can prescribe Vitamin D, antidepressants and even find you someone to talk to about your feelings.