Do you start to feel sad when daylight saving time kicks in and the days become shorter and darker? Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, may affect up to 10 percent of people living in colder climates, but the good news is that it is eminently treatable.
Shorter, colder and darker days can cause the brain to produce less serotonin, a mood elevator, and more melatonin, which is linked to sleep. The result can be depression, anxiety, mood swings, overeating, lethargy and sleep problems that can start in the fall and last until May.
Follow these five tips:
- See your doctor. To help your doctor make a diagnosis, write down your symptoms, their severity and when they started. If you have SAD, there is treatment available.
- Medication can help, but try a healthy diet first. SAD usually causes mild to moderate depression. SAD sufferers often crave sweets, so make sure you get your proteins and essential vitamins and minerals. If your depression is more serious, however, your health care provider may prescribe an antidepressant.
- Go outside. In some cases of SAD, spending more time outside in winter sunlight, especially while exercising, may ease symptoms. If you can arrange your schedule, try to be outside midday when the sun is at its highest point.
- Consider light therapy. A special light box, which you sit in front of while doing activities such as reading or working, mimics sunlight and may ease symptoms within a few days. See a doctor first to make sure you’re using the light box correctly; it may be covered by insurance if you have a prescription. If you have bipolar disorder, be sure to consult a doctor first; light therapy may cause manic episodes.
- Talk it out. Though you may not feel like talking, human contact is important. Talking with a friend or therapist may ease feelings of isolation.
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