As fall approaches, we experience the cooler evening temps and the crisp smell in the air, we start prepping for Halloween, and pumpkin spice flavored items are everywhere 😊. A common, but not often discussed, health concern is SAD (seasonal affective disorder). It is a minor depression resulting from the shorter days. Those who also suffer from depression outside of the fall and winter months may struggle even more during the shorter days. So, for this week, we would like to offer some tips to help you during this time of year.
First, lets chat about what SAD looks like and how to determine if you may have it. Individuals with SAD do need to meet certain criteria for an official diagnosis. It is a form of disorder where one has an increase in depression at the same time each year for a minimum period of 2 years. Typically, it falls during the winter months when there is less light throughout the day. For those who live in northern states where it is also cold, it can make it even more challenging due to the inability to be outside when the sun is shining.
While there is no official reasoning behind why some struggle with SAD, we do believe that the lack of sunlight that our bodies need to produce serotonin (which is our mood enhancer) during this time of year is part of the culprit.
If you feel you suffer from SAD, it is extremely important that you visit with your doctor or therapist to discuss protocol and get an official diagnosis, as well as read the suggested tips below. If you do not feel you suffer from SAD but do have difficulty staying focused and getting motivated during the shorter days, then read on.
I mean, you knew this was going to be recommended, right? Exercise helps produce serotonin, so it is a no-brainer how this one works. We know the motivation may be lacking to get movement in, especially during this time of year. But if you want to help combat depression during these months, it is a key component. Marching in place, shadow -boxing in your truck, using your resistance bands, or taking a walk to see the leaves changing are some possibilities.
- Eat healthy
Eating your veggies and appropriate carbs not only helps with weight loss, but it has many other benefits that can help reduce depression, such as better sleep and more energy. Also, consider where your food is produced. If it is a product that needs the sun to grow, you’re gaining the benefits of the vitamins from the sun. Bonus!
- Get your ZZZ’s
Getting enough sleep helps combat depression significantly. Work on creating a bedtime routine that is consistent throughout the week. Avoid television, iPad, phone, computer, etc. at least 1 hour prior to bedtime as the light from these tells our brain to stay awake. Read a book, meditate, do yoga, have a cup of decaffeinated tea, or find another routine that works for you.
- Take advantage of the sunlight you do have
We encourage you to get outside even if for a few minutes at a time during those tougher days. Ideally, you want 10 minutes in the sun without sunscreen to get the benefits. Most windows block the rays we need, so you do need to be outside in order to get all the benefits.
For those who are suffering from SAD and see a doctor, they may recommend you try light therapy or medication to help get you through those tough months. We would encourage you to also apply the above to your daily routine.
Before you know it, the days will be shorter; getting into the habit now is key before winter is here.