The winter blues affects many people during the colder months of the year. Often seen as a fictitious anomaly, winter can bring a rise in depression—disabling a person’s energy and productivity. The National Institute of Mental Health calls this phenomena Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. SAD affects up to 10% of the population depending on the geographic region. Those at risk for SAD tend to live further away from the equator, which means more irregular weather and changing seasons. Perhaps a new assignment location has you feeling the effects of SAD. Read on for a few tips that will help you fight those winter blues.
Depending on where you are, this may prove more difficult than it seems. If you find yourself in a climate with an abundance of sun, you’re in luck. A dose of its rays can absolutely pick you back up. On the other hand, darkness increases the body’s production of melatonin, making you more lethargic and less capable of fighting depression. According to the World Health Organization, in order to keep a person’s vitamin D levels sufficiently high and ward off SAD, an individual needs only 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure in the summer months. Since direct sunlight isn’t usually an option in the winter, there are artificial alternatives. Light boxes and dawn simulators are used to deliver Light Therapy, a prominent means of treating SAD proven effective in 85% of diagnosed cases.
Having a person to confide in will always be important for anyone suffering from a mental health disorder. Support from groups, friends, family and therapists helps relieve the pressure. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most prominent forms of treatment for SAD. It aims to help a person develop coping strategies targeting unhelpful thought and behavior patterns brought on during the winter months. Speaking with others can help individuals develop these strategies and gain the perspective needed to help battle depression.
Stay Active and Healthy
Exercise is known to increase the production of endorphins and increase the brain’s sensitivity to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression. Hypersomnia (more commonly known as excessive sleepiness) is also a serious symptom of SAD. Exercise has also been proven to be an efficient means of regulating sleep. But health is more than just exercising regularly. Check out our previous article on staying healthy over the winter season!
Ask your doctor about your symptoms! Talking with your physician is always recommended. There are a few pharmaceutical treatments available. Bupropion is a popular antidepressant used to treat SAD... Another popular option is a daily vitamin D supplement. Of course, before taking anything—prescription or over-the-counter medication—it is important to consult your doctor to understand any possible risks or side effects
Each person is different and reacts to treatments in unique ways, but with science and research on your side, you can fight off the powerful gloom of wintry days! It is especially important for traveling medical professionals out there to keep a healthy demeanor for the sake of their patients and their own sanity. Persevering through Winter can be difficult, but we hope these tips make it a little easier. And if they work for you, share with a friend!