Seasonal affective disorder, also known as winter depression or SAD, is a form of depression that is often triggered by shorter days, cold weather, and lack of sunshine or natural light. Seasonal affective disorder can be quite serious and if so, should be treated by a doctor. However, for those who are suffering from a milder version of it, there are some concrete steps that can be taken to feel better even though the weather hasn't changed.
- Get evaluated for depression. First of all, if you are suffering from depression, don't wait. See a doctor immediately. He or she may prescribe antidepressants - even just for the winter season. Depression can be paralyzing and is not something to be taken lightly!
- Try light therapy. Light boxes are full spectrum lamps that can mimic the effects of sunshine. Often, people suffering from SAD find that just 30-60 minutes a day in front of their light box makes them feel much better. You do not need a prescription to buy a light box, and many companies are now selling full spectrum light bulbs for your regular light fixtures as well!
- Take St. John's Wort. Always talk to a doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal supplements, as they can interact with other medications. However, if you get the go-ahead, St. John's Wort - available in tea and capsules - might help raise your mood.
- Take Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced by our bodies when we are in the sun. During the winter, vitamin D levels in our bodies drop, which may contribute to seasonal affective disorder. Be careful not to take more than 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day.
- Practice yoga. It is not fully understood, but for some reason, yoga seems to help many people stabilize their mood in the winter. Going to a regular yoga class or practicing yoga at home might help you deal with SAD.
- Get outside during daylight hours. Even if it is cold and overcast, some natural light is better than none. It can be difficult to get any natural light during the winter, because the days are so short, but it is important in dealing with seasonal affective disorder. Even a quick walk during your lunch break at work can help lift your mood.
- Get moving! Exercise has been found to help most forms of mild depression. It can be difficult to begin an excercise program if you are dealing with seasonal affective disorder, so don't be afraid to ask for help.
- Talk. As with any form of depression, even mild depression, you need emotional support if you are dealing with SAD. A therapist may be helpful, but close friends can also help just by being around.
It is very common to have a depressed mood to some extent during the winter. However, if you find that seasonal affective disorder is interfering with work or school, or your personal relationships, or if you are not able to get out of bed or feel like harming yourself, get professional help immediately.