Have you ever noticed that during certain months of the year, maybe when fall starts slipping into winter, your mental health starts to struggle? Maybe, depending on where you live, the spring turning into summer causes increased stress due to hot, humid temperatures that keep you inside most days, causing a decline in mental health.
If you’re not aware of or prepared for it, this change in your mental health can be confusing and possibly even debilitating. After all, why would the sunshine of summer cause stress? Or does the promise of the winter holidays come with depression symptoms?
Seasonal affective disorder
Believe it or not, there is actually a reason for this change in mental stability. Known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the external changes in weather, temperature and varying amounts of sunlight actually can play a significantly large role in our mental health. Especially when vitamin D starts to decline from lack of sun exposure, or a change in daylight hours throws off our circadian rhythm, the emotions we feel and the thoughts we have can start to overrule our mental stability.
SAD affects a number of Americans every year, which may offer some comfort – you’re not alone in this journey. If you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder, you may notice certain symptoms that occur, including:
- Oversleeping (hypersomnia) or under-sleeping (insomnia)
- Changes in eating habits, such as over- or under-eating
- Feeling slow, sluggish or unmotivated
- Having difficulty keeping up with obligations, like work, school or social commitments
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Losing interest in activities you typically enjoy
If you experience these changes, particularly in conjunction with seasonal turnover, it may be time to seek help. Trained mental health professionals can provide you with the right coping mechanisms as well as suggestions for preparing for each seasonal change in years to come.
How can I help myself manage the symptoms of SAD?
Thankfully, there are a number of tools you can utilize to minimize the intensity of SAD symptoms and help you balance your emotions and negative thought patterns on your own.
Not only does regular exercise promote general health, but it can also help alleviate seasonal depression. One cause of SAD is diminishing sunlight, so exercising near a window or outside, if weather permits, can be effective in overcoming seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Exercises such as tai chi or yoga – that is, ones that enhance the mind-body connection – may also help.
Use sunlight simulators
Since waning sunlight is a common cause of seasonal depression, simulating the sight and feeling of sunlight can be an effective coping technique. One way to do this is with a lightbox or lamp created especially for helping with seasonal depression. These lights create artificial sunlight and can boost your mood without you needing to do much else than keep it on while you’re in the room.
Another option is to use a dawn simulator in place of an alarm clock. Designed to stimulate the slow introduction of sunlight at dawn, they are a much gentler, natural alternative to the jarring effects of an alarm clock going off in the pitch dark.
Research has discovered a link between low levels of vitamin D and seasonal depression. Additionally, the changing seasons can alter levels of regulatory chemicals in the brain such as melatonin and serotonin. Regular supplements can help combat these issues. Before taking supplements, however, it is important to consult a physician first.
Certain essential oils, such as lavender or rosemary, have qualities to calm anxiety, alleviate depression and potentially boost energy. A common way to use these and other essential oils is adding them to a hot bath before bed, diffusing them into your home or applying topical oils directly to certain areas of the body to promote wellbeing.
Start a journal
Feelings and depressed thoughts are sometimes easier to cope with when you write them down on paper. If you are someone who keeps records of your daily life (career tasks, school work, etc.), consider setting aside 20 minutes to write out your thoughts, feelings and concerns. This can help you gain new perspectives, identify certain patterns and keep track of good days and what it was about those days that made them good.
Take a vacation
If you suffer from seasonal depression, everyday pressures such as work and other social obligations may only become more stressful and overwhelming. If you are able, consider taking a vacation to someplace warm and sunny. Time away from everyday stressors could be extremely effective in lifting your daily mood.
And if you struggle with seasonal affective disorder in the summer, consider a trip up North. The fresh air of New Hampshire or the cool evening rain of the Pacific Northwest might be what you need to help reset your mental stability.
Seek professional help
Finding a treatment center or licensed therapist is always a recommended course of action when battling mental health. Do your research on programs offered near you and ensure that they employ holistic practices for overcoming seasonal depression. A whole body/mind approach is important to successfully treating any mental condition.
To get in touch with a holistic treatment center today, contact High Focus Centers by calling our offices at 800-877-3628 to learn more.