Winter comes to a close and the season of spring is here.
Yet, even with the flowers blooming, and the winds blowing warm, some of us are left lost in a bout of depression, feeling down in the dumps.
Understanding seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
This change in mood and mild depression may be what is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
A common type of depression that millions suffer from every year. Acting as a sub-type of bipolar disorder, SAD is often a significant change in mood that happens during the change of seasons.
While it is most commonly associated during the winter months, when transitioning from the fall to the cold, it is still possible to plague us even in the spring or early summers — although less common.
Symptoms of SAD
Considering that we get SAD during seasonal change, a lot of us pass it off as something temporary and relatively mild. While the effects may vary from person to person, it’s important not to brush it off or ‘tough it out.’
Usually, those experiencing seasonal affective disorder may feel any of the following symptoms:
- Sad or down for most of the day, almost every day
- Low levels of motivation and interest in anything
- Feeling sluggish throughout the day
- Low levels of energy
- Extreme levels of weight gain OR weight loss (depending on the season)
- Little to no appetite
- Unable to concentrate properly
- Having high doubt in self
- Experiencing insomnia during the night
- Increased irritability
- Easily feeling anxious and agitated
- Questioning the reason for living
- A sense of hopelessness or worthlessness
All of these changes can play a large part in your mental health, deterring your lifestyle and overall emotional stability. This is why seasonal affective disorder is not something that should be ignored, as its lasting effects may do more harm to your psychological well-being than you think.
What you can do to stop feeling SAD
Although you can technically take anti-depressants to combat the effects of SAD, some more natural ways to prevent the seasonal affective disorder are to:
- Experience daylight — If you’re stuck inside, try to open your windows and let the sunshine in. If not, make sure to take some time to be outdoors and soak in the sun. Sunlight has been known to boost moods, help you keep calm, and remain focused.
- Stay active — Whether it’s SAD or cabin fever, one thing you should make sure to do is stay active. Even if you are experiencing these waves of depression during the winter, remain active and exercise. Get your body moving and let the blood flow.
- Be social — Socializing is an innate quality that defines us. Spend a bit of time talking, drinking, or simply interacting with other people.
- Light therapy — More formally known as phototherapy, this is where you put a special lightbox close to you – a few feet away – waking up to it every day. The light here is meant to mimic natural outdoor light and has been associated with boost energy levels.
Seasonal Affective Disorder vs Cabin Fever
The symptoms of the seasonal affective disorder may be relatively similar to that of cabin fever, with some even saying they are the same thing.
While the differences are not substantial, cabin fever is triggered more by the idea of isolation and being indoors for long, extended periods of time. SAD, on the other hand, is specific to its name: affected by the change in season, with a difficulty in overproduction of melatonin.
Feel brighter with more sunlight
Whether it’s a seasonal affective disorder or cabin fever, one of the distinct commonalities between the two is what a lack of sunlight does to us.
Not only does a bright, sunny day help us to feel energetic, it literally helps to boost the hormone serotonin in the brain. The lack of sun exposure has been shown to drop these serotonin levels, which can lead to a higher probability of depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
So, as the seasons change from cold to warm and pandemic restrictions steadily begin to ease up, use this video to reflect on the lingering sadness throughout the seasons. As you become more aware of the changing seasons and how they may affect you, use these tips mentioned to take more of a conscious effort to be better, seeing more sun to ultimately feel brighter.