If your answers are yes, it’s possible that you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder, a common type of depression during the fall and winter months. Often referred to as SAD, seasonal affective disorder negatively affects a person’s energy levels, which can lead to depression, anxiety and feelings of hopelessness.
Though spring will be here in another month, there’s still time to make a few lifestyle changes that can help alleviate symptoms of SAD.
Here are a few recommendations from Lois McConomy, a licensed clinical social worker at Memorial Counseling Associates:
- Get a healthy dose of sleep each night. “There is a strong connection between sleep problems and mental health, in particular SAD,” McConomy said. “I encourage people to be proactive and maintain good sleep habits, such as decreasing the amount of light and noise in your sleeping area and going to bed and waking up around the same time every day.”
- Start eating healthier, including low-fat foods, more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. “These types of foods promote energy rather than sluggishness that can come from eating foods high in carbohydrates, fat and processed sugars,” McConomy said.
- Eat breakfast to help fuel the body. This will help you avoid binge eating and snacking throughout the day.
- Become physically active. Thirty minutes of exercise every day can positively affect your mood. “If you exercise outdoors, you’ll benefit from natural light,” McConomy said. “As the light enters through your eyes, it stimulates the production of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that affects mood.”
- Seek out sunnier environments. Get as much light wherever you are. Open curtains and blinds. Move your favorite chair next to a window.
- Participate in mind-body therapies, such as yoga, guided imagery meditation and massage, all of which can also benefit someone suffering from SAD.
“Symptoms of SAD should not be ignored because it is a serious form of depression,” McConomy said. “If someone has tried to manage their symptoms but still feels depressed or the symptoms get worse, they should contact their physician or a mental health professional immediately.”
If you have concerns about your mental health, Memorial Counseling Associates offers the opportunity to go online to assess your emotional well-being. The online screening program is anonymous and asks a series of questions about your moods. After completing the self-assessment, you will receive immediate feedback, as well as referral information about how to access local treatment resources and links to related articles. Go to MemorialCounselingAssociates.org to complete a free online screening.