Summer is here as so is the sunshine! While this season is loved by many, those suffering from seasonal depression might have mixed emotions. While mainly classified as the “winter blues,” this complex disorder can actually strike any time of the year.
So what do you do now that it’s summer, but your seasonal affective disorder hasn’t gone away? Keep reading for tips on how to help ease this mental health battle.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to the changing of the seasons. It’s sometimes referred to as “the winter blues” because people often get depressed as winter approaches.
Some psychologists believe the shorter days and increased darkness during cold months play a part in the onset of symptoms. Not only is it dark gloomy, but a lack of sunshine also decreases your vitamin D intake, which is important for serotonin regulation.
That said, many affected by SAD experience their depressive months during the summer instead. And sometimes, you might experience varying intervals of depression, meaning winter SAD could spread into summertime.
SAD is characterized by feeling down, lethargic, not sleeping enough or sleeping too much, having trouble concentrating, and losing interest in activities. Lethargy and oversleeping are usually associated with winter-onset SAD, while insomnia and poor appetite come with summer-onset SAD.
This disorder is still being heavily researched, and it isn’t thoroughly understood yet by the scientific community. However, enough is known to be able to treat it.
How to Help
So now you know the definition of seasonal depression, but that doesn’t solve the issue. How do you go about combatting this condition and getting back to your old self? SAD is a complex disorder, but there are many approaches to alleviate symptoms.
Like many other forms of depressive disorder, SAD can often be treated with medication. Most antidepressants are a once daily pill, and the dosage will vary based on severity. Talking with a healthcare provider about your specific symptoms and experiences will help determine which medication is right for you.
One of the most commonly-prescribed types of antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs. Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac are some popular SSRI options. These work by inhibiting serotonin from being prematurely absorbed by the nerve cells. This keeps the “happy hormone” in your body longer, allowing its mood-boosting benefits to increase.
Try Light Therapy
Light therapy has been found to help combat symptoms of SAD. This technique involves using a light therapy box — essentially a lamp designed for treating this condition. Equipped with over 10,000 lux of light and low UV ray levels, a light therapy box simulates sunshine.
It’s recommended to use the light box in intervals of 20 to 30 minutes every day shortly after waking up. This treatment method is best used for those with winter-onset SAD, as sunshine exposure can be effective against it.
Talk to a Professional
Speaking with a professional is often a good idea if you’re looking for help with your mental health. Therapists and counselors are specifically trained to assist you in your journey and identify problems you might not notice.
Additionally, mental health professionals are experienced in treating several kinds of disorders. They will be knowledgeable in effective treatment techniques and be able to cater to your individual needs.
Many people also find that simply talking through their issues and feelings with someone can significantly help. Getting your thoughts out is a great technique for processing complex emotions.
If you’re not ready to speak with a therapist yet, journaling your thoughts can also be a helpful way to process your feelings. Documenting how you feel can help you spot patterns and triggers, and you might be able to avoid or disrupt any recurring negative thoughts.
Adjusting your lifestyle is another big part of coping with SAD. Eating right, getting enough sleep, and being active are all components that will help you feel better. Remember, your physical health affects your mental health. However, adding positive components to your day isn’t the only strategy you should utilize.
Decreasing negative aspects of your life is also vital for your mental health journey. Identifying what stresses you out and learning how to limit that can take the weight off your shoulders.
This might involve cutting down a regularly packed schedule or communicating less with toxic people. Don’t be afraid to make these difficult decisions, as they’re in your best interest. Learn to say no and put your mental health as a bigger priority.
Make Time for Fun
While decreasing stressors from your life, make sure to add activities that you enjoy. This could be reading, journaling, watching TV, or spending more time with people you love. If you don’t have any particular hobbies, why not experiment and find one you like?
Think of it as “you time” where you get to focus on yourself and do what you enjoy. Making time for activities that bring you joy or relaxation can do wonders for your mental health.
Mental Health Is a Journey
Keep in mind that the path to improving your mental health is not a straight road. It’s filled with curves and bumps that are inevitable — and that’s alright. Everyone’s journey is different, but what’s important is how you choose to overcome your battles. You have the strength within you to get through this. Just take it one day at a time.