Parents start strolling down toy store aisles for their children, malls start marking down their prices for the holiday sales, bakers start baking pies by the dozens, and the electric companies are running to the bank because everyone finally has their heat on high.
While anxiety may creeping in for some people around this time of year, depression is knocking on my door. I’m not just talking about being sad, I’m talking about dealing with SAD. That’s seasonal affective disorder for those of you who may think I’m just extremely passionate about sadness.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs when the seasons begin to change.
For 4% to 6% of the US population, SAD begins and ends around the same time every year - symptoms begin to pop up in the fall and continuously get worse in the winter months. (SAD can also affect people in the summer, but I have no experience in that department so we won’t get into it.)
These symptoms include feeling depressed most of the day for almost every day, having low energy, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, feeling sluggish or agitated, changes in your appetite or weight, feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. Personally, I can check off having every single one of those symptoms. #ILoveWinter
What causes SAD symptoms?
I’m sure you’re wondering “How does winter make my depression hit even harder??” Well, according to the Mayo Clinic. Your biological clock - also known as circadian rhythm - is disrupted by the reduced levels of sunlight. Reduced sunlight can also cause a drop in your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (or a chemical in your brain) that affects your mood. The change in season can also disrupt the balance of our body’s melatonin level and melatonin contributes to our sleep patterns and mood.
Basically, you can blame everything on the sun.
Oh, by the way...sorry ladies! Seasonal affective disorder affects us more than men. But don’t worry, just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to feel the effects of SAD. Family history, living far away from the equator, and of course if you already suffer from major depression or bipolar disorder - all contribute to the level of your risk factor.
People often buy sun lamps to counteract the lack of sunlight during these months.
a few other ways to combat seasonal affective disorder:
Aromatherapy! I can personally attest to the amazing results of diffusing doTERRA’s Elevation oil blend. In general, essential oils have amazing healing properties. Specifically, the Elevation Blend elevates your mood, promotes feelings of confidence, and increases your energy levels. I’ve had my diffuser going nonstop the past few weeks and the results have been amazing. I was stuck in a depressive rut, barely about to get up to go about my day before I turned my diffuser on. Once the oil was diffusing, I was able to get, actually start writing again, and finally concentrate on getting things done. There’s Lavandin Flower, Lavender Flower, Hawaiian Sandalwood, Tangerine Peel, Melissa Flower, Ylang Ylang Flower, Elemi Resin, Osmanthus Flower, and Lemon Myrtle Leaf essential oils within the blend and not only did it lift my mood… it smells delicious! Ten out of ten would recommend.
Be conscious of what you are eating and try to maximize your exposure to the sunlight that’s available to you. Why on earth did I lump these two together? Because the easiest way I’ve found for both of these to work is to go outside during your lunch break, walk to a local lunch spot, and be mindful the entire time! In theory, if you walk somewhere on your lunchbreak, you’re obtaining an extra dose of sunlight - an exposure that you wouldn’t get if you had food delivered or if you ate your brought lunch while sitting at your desk. Plus, you’re getting a little bit of exercise, blood pumping through your veins, and some fresh air!
One last recommendation I have for you is to take vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D (which is given to you through the sun rays!) affects around 3,000 of the 30,000 genes inside your body. Being deficient in Vitamin D is very common and supplements should be discussed with your doctor before being taken, but it can help your mood and energy levels.
If you have any other suggestions to fight seasonal affective disorder, please share them in the comments below!