What to Do About Your Seasonal Depression
As the days get shorter and the holidays are on the horizon, two types of depression can strike — seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and the holiday blues.
To help you better navigate this time of year, the team of mental health experts at Amavi Integrative Mental Wellness wants to focus on these types of depression. While SAD and holiday-time depression share some characteristics, there are some differences, including how we approach them.
Let’s take a look.
When the seasons change
About 5% of adults in the United States are affected by seasonal affective disorder, which typically lasts about 40% of the year. SAD is caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain in response to the shorter daylight hours and decreased sun exposure during late fall, winter, and early spring.
The symptoms of SAD are the same as depression, except they only occur during certain seasons. These symptoms include:
- Feeling sad
- Feeling lethargic
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Changes in your sleep patterns
- Fatigue (loss of energy)
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
In extreme cases, SAD can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
As with depression, antidepressants can be effective in offsetting the symptoms of SAD, as well as psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
Going a step further, we can turn to light therapy, which helps to rebalance the chemicals in your brain affected by the lack of light and sunshine. With light therapy, you sit in front of a box that emits a bright light, without any potentially harmful ultraviolet rays.
Light therapy works best when you use it for at least 20 minutes each day and, if you have a history of SAD, you can start your light therapy early in the fall to prevent symptoms from developing in winter.
Depression and the holidays
The holidays are supposed to be full of joy, but these occasions can also be a source of great stress for people already diagnosed with a mental health issue like depression or anxiety.
If you’re prone to an increase in your depressive symptoms around the holidays, it’s essential to approach them with a solid mental health management plan in place.
If we’re already treating you for depression, we can focus on coping strategies around this time of year that can help you better weather the holidays. These strategies might include:
- Daily walks outside, especially when the sun is out
- Reducing social media
- Maintaining your sleep schedule
- Creating boundaries with your family
Each coping plan is different and tailored to your unique needs, but the strategies above are a great start for anyone prone to heightened depression during the holiday season.
If you’re struggling with SAD or you’re nervous about the upcoming holidays, we invite you to schedule an appointment at our office in Niwot, Colorado, which also serves the Boulder and Longmont areas.