With February in full swing come many dreary days and freezing temperatures. Even though Spring is right around the corner, Seasonal Affective Disorder feels never ending this time of year. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects many people and can feel overwhelming for most. In this blog, I will cover what Seasonal Affective Disorder is and what home remedies I recommend most to clients.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a type of depression that occurs seasonally. Most people experience this during the colder and darker months, Fall and Winter, but it also occurs in the warmer months. For this blog, we will be focusing on those affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder in the Fall and Winter. The symptoms commonly seen in Seasonal Affective Disorder are oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, fatigue, and low energy. In addition, there are also reports of feelings of worthlessness and depressed mood. According to the DSM-5, Seasonal Affective Disorder is listed as a specifier of Major Depressive Disorder. Therefore, when diagnosed, it would be listed as Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Patterns.
Treatment may vary due to the severity of symptoms a person is experiencing. The remedies I am offering are home cures that you can do at home without the intervention of a doctor or therapist. But, of course, if these tips do not feel they are helping enough, please seek professional help.
So, when it comes to combating Seasonal Affective Disorder, my first line of defense is Vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is known to increase energy and mood, and most people get their Vitamin D through sunlight and spending time in nature. But, in the winter months, when the sun isn’t as readily available or going outdoors is not an option, our levels can drop and aid in the sluggish or depressive mood that comes with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I recommend a Vitamin D supplement or incorporating Light Therapy into their routine.
Light Therapy is a fancy term for using a lightbox. People have different names for light boxes; my favorite is a Happy Light. Happy Lights are artificial lights that simulate natural light, which can help elevate mood. I think you should use a Happy Light in your morning routine. For example, eating breakfast, putting on your makeup, or having one at work before your day picks up.
When we are not feeling our best, taking care of ourselves can feel impossible. This can perpetuate our symptoms and cause an individual to feel even more down because their body isn’t getting what it needs. One way this happens is with our diet. For some, overeating makes us feel safe. While I never question how much or what you’re eating, if you are eating to the point of pain, we need to look into it. This can happen when we don’t feel like eating all day and then find ourselves binging at night or using food for comfort. It is also normal to see clients having no appetite and not eating at all, maybe due to a lack of interest or the task of cooking feel too much. Whether overeating or undereating, having easy-to-make nourishing meals will help you eat and eliminate the difficulty of cooking. You may prefer to bring snacks into your most used spaces so they are nearby to graze all day, or having frozen meals that are easily reheated may help maintain a healthy diet.
Movement can feel like the hardest thing to do when we are not well, but it can be a helpful intervention for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Because we spend more time outdoors in the warmer seasons, movement can fall to the wayside in the colder months. Finding time to move our body is hard when we are at our best, but it is important. Movement can be doing laps around your home, block, or neighborhood. Movement can also look like following a gentle stretching video on YouTube. Movement can look different for everyone and whatever you can tolerate that day.
As mentioned earlier, these are home remedies to help you care for yourself and help alleviate symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you need more than these methods, please seek help. Any therapist here at The Works Counseling Center would be happy to help you through this time and can refer you to a doctor or psychiatrist if additional support is needed. Be kind to yourself!
American Psychiatric Association (2013).Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders(5th ed). Washington, DC: Author.
Mayo Clinic Staff (2021). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic.