Do you notice yourself getting irritable and mopey about the same time every year? When the seasons change, do your moods switch along with them?
It’s not in your head. You could have a specific condition called “seasonal affective disorder,” or SAD.
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that follows a cycle along with the seasons. Most people have fall and winter SAD, but it does occasionally show up as spring and summer SAD.
This type of depression tends to show up as a lack of energy and increased irritability with no apparent cause. The symptoms frequently vary depending on the type of SAD.
Regardless of your seasonal version of SAD, it’s common to notice symptoms like low energy, difficulty sleeping, and daily depression. You might not want to do the things you used to enjoy, and it could be hard to focus on anything.
Fall/winter SAD usually comes hand-in-hand with oversleeping and weight gain. You might crave comfort foods and lots of carbs. Eating carb-laden meals and sleeping too much increases your tiredness. It becomes a seemingly never-ending cycle.
Spring/summer SAD symptoms include anxiety, irritability, and insomnia. Weight loss from a poor appetite is part of this condition.
The worst part is that you often feel hopeless and worthless with any type of SAD, and it’s not true.
If you’re dealing with this condition, you need coping strategies. These five tips are simple ways to deal with SAD until the seasons change again.
The hardest part of dealing with a mental disorder is that we want to discount it. SAD is a legitimate physiological condition caused by chemical imbalances in your body.
You wouldn’t tell yourself to “just get over” a broken leg. In the same vein, you need to validate the feelings you’re having as a condition you’re dealing with.
If you can pinpoint a logical reason why you’re feeling down, you can address it. But if there’s no good reason for your depression, it’s probably the SAD kicking in. This can help you move forward with other, more active coping strategies.
Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that boost your mood. You don’t feel like moving, but you don’t really feel like being depressed, either. Once you get on your feet, it’s easier to keep the momentum going.
SAD is an imbalance of your circadian rhythm, serotonin levels, or melatonin levels. Getting your body moving helps your body’s chemicals get balanced again.
Having someone to talk to when you’re down is always a good idea. But with SAD, there isn’t an issue you need to resolve or a problem that needs to be worked out. It’s a disruption in your body’s homeostasis, or constant internal environment.
You don’t have to take prescription drugs that alter this state even more. Instead, use mood stabilizers that naturally interact with the systems and processes in you, like:
- Vitamin B12 (and any B vitamins)
- Vitamin D
Cannabis is another mood stabilizer that has become popular over the past decade. If SAD is interfering with your daily activities, consider seeing a doctor for a medical marijuana card. This article by Veriheal explains more about the legality of using an MMJ card in different states.
Lack of Vitamin D is a serious cause of depression. This is especially rampant in the fall and winter, causing SAD in people who are normally happy-go-lucky.
Open the windows and doors in the house and let the sun inside. Roll the windows down in the car when you’re traveling.
If you live in a state where the sun rarely shines during these months, invest in a tanning bed or get a membership at a gym that has these beds.
They’re not the best alternative. But, as with going outside, if you use sunblock, you can get the benefits without the damage.
You probably don’t feel like going out at all, but socializing is a great coping strategy.
Invite your friends over to your house if public places are too much for you right now. Have a game night, watch a funny movie, and order a pizza.
Spending time with people who make you happy is the strongest form of therapy there is. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.
Seasonal affective disorder can become a serious condition that you shouldn’t ignore. The symptoms can be easy to brush off as moodiness. If they go on too long and you notice a pattern each year, talk to your doctor.
In the meantime, these coping strategies can help you get back into the routine of your daily life.