How to Break Free from Seasonal Depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically sets in over winter months, however it can occur any time throughout the year. There are many factors that can contribute to the onset of seasonal depression including cold weather forcing you to stay indoors, your circadian rhythm being thrown off from shorter days, drop in serotonin levels, a disruption of melatonin levels. 

What are the symptoms of SAD? 

Symptoms of seasonal depression can vary depending on the person, but some common signs that you are struggling with seasonal depression are:

  • Oversleeping
  • Change in appetite and diet, you may notice a craving for a higher carb count
  • Weight Gain
  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • High Anxiety
  • Irritability

Are certain people more susceptible to seasonal depression than others?

Absolutely. Seasonal depression can affect anyone, however there are certain risk factors that can elevate your chances of getting seasonal depression. You are at higher risk for SAD if you:

  • Are female.
  • Already struggle with depression.
  • Have low vitamin D levels.
  • Are a young adult.
  • Live in the northern states where the sun is up for shorter periods of time.
  • Have a family history of SAD.

How do I manage symptoms of seasonal depression? 

While seasonal affective disorder is completely normal, there are steps you can take to prevent it from disrupting your life. Seasonal depression can lead to more serious issues if left to run its course without any treatment. It is incredibly important to recognize the symptoms behind SAD and fight against them as soon as possible. 

Here are a few steps to take to try and stop SAD in its tracks before it takes over:

  • Keep open communication with your close friends. If you know you already struggle with SAD from previous years, mention it to your friends before it ever becomes an issue. This will help your friends know to push back should you try to isolate yourself. Having a solid support system behind you is the best way to prevent SAD. 
  • Get out of the house. Find things to do every day, but avoid blindly going to stores. It isn’t uncommon to develop a bad spending habit to try and “fix” SAD. Leave your money at home and walk around the mall, join a gym, or visit a friend for coffee. Getting out of the house prevents you from falling into a sedentary mindset. 
  • Watch your diet. That doesn’t mean cutting calories and avoiding anything that tastes good. It means make sure you are eating well balanced meals. Avoid binge eating on high carb foods that will make you feel gross. 
  • Learn a new hobby. Find something that makes you happy! Start knitting, find a cheap used sewing machine, learn chess, pick up dancing, learn to cook, or pull out that old guitar you swore you’d learn to play seven years ago. Check out local resale sites like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and do not blow your budget on a new hobby until you know it’s something you actually enjoy and will continue! 
  • Clean your house. It is really easy to fall behind on housework when hit with SAD which will only make things worse over time. Get up early, make yourself a real breakfast, turn on your favorite podcast, and get to work. Start in small sections to avoid getting overwhelmed. It would help if you have a close friend or family member that would come help keep you on track! 
  • Avoid sad movies and music! What goes in comes out. Just liking eating junk food for every meal will make you feel poorly, depressive media will only bring your mood down. Have a constant cycle of uplifting songs, positive podcasts, and comedy shows throughout the day to bring up your mood! 
  • Stay Active. Because SAD typically occurs during winter months, it’s not as easy to get out and exercise. There are endless resources online for free or low cost workouts to stay moving even if you’re unable to get a gym membership! 
  • Open the blinds. When you wake up in the morning, immediately open your blinds to let sunlight in! This will help keep your circadian rhythm on track and prevent you from feeling shut in!
  • Volunteer. Churches, schools, animal shelters, and food pantries are always looking for volunteers to help with daily operations. Giving back to the community is a great way to keep your serotonin levels up!
  • Take time to yourself. It’s really easy to get caught up in a day to day routine, especially if you have many people that rely on you. Take some time, whether it’s an hour or a whole day, to take care of yourself. Go get a massage, take yourself to dinner,  or take a relaxing bath. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so make sure you’re filling your cup first!

Taking some small steps to make yourself feel better will help break out of a depressive episode, however it is extremely important to talk to a professional the second you feel your symptoms are getting out of hand. Ignoring serious depression symptoms will not make them disappear and will only make things worse. Discuss your symptoms with a doctor to get on a regime that is tailored to you and keep communication open with those who care about you. 

Many Americans go without psychological care due to cost, but you have options. Many private insurance providers are finally offering mental health care in their coverage! For more information on finding the perfect insurance plan for your needs, contact Sean the Insurance Guy today!