Five Ways to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Goodbye summer, hello fall. As we pack away our swimsuits and suntan lotion, our beloved sweaters and boots become staples in our wardrobes as the air grows colder and the leaves change from lush greens to fiery reds. However, for some people the change in the weather can impact their health in a negative way and cause them to feel sluggish, unmotivated, and depressed. The medical term is called seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), and symptoms generally start to appear in the fall and continue into the duration of the winter season. Also, SAD has been known to affect individuals during the transition from spring to summer.

According to this article published by Mayo Clinic, common symptoms of S.A.D. can include having low energy, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty, and having frequent thoughts of death or suicide. Symptoms of S.A.D. occurs during the fall and winter months, which is also known as winter depression, can include oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, and tiredness. During the spring and summer months, which is also known as summer depression, symptoms can include trouble sleeping, poor appetite, weight loss, and agitation.

So, what causes seasonal affective disorder? The same article presents three possibilities. The first possibility involves a disruption with your biological clock. As the seasons change, the reduced level of sunlight can throw off your circadian rhythm and lead to you feeling depressed. The second reason involves your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your brain that helps regulate your mood. Reduced exposure to sunlight can cause a drop in your serotonin levels and trigger feelings of depression. Lastly, the change in weather can disruption to your body’s melatonin level. This is can lead to you feeling drowsy and tired because melatonin plays a key role in your sleep patterns and mood.

Now let’s discuss some of the simple ways to chnage the effects of S.A.D.

1. First and foremost, talk to your doctor.

While you might feel like you can brush off your symptoms, it’s important to take your health seriously. Have an honest conversation with your healthcare provider and get a get a professional opinion. They might recommend treatment that you might not have access to otherwise.

2. Exercise.

It’s no secret that exercise is not only good for your body, but also good for your mental health. Going either to the gym or taking a walk outside for 10 minutes will get the endorphins running and help improve your overall mood.

3. Journal.

This one might seem a bit strange, but getting all your thoughts out on paper, no matter how random and insignificant they seem, can be a great way to compartmentalize and organize your thoughts.

4. Try aromatherapy.

According to this article by Everyday Health, certain essential oils can influence areas in the brain that control our moods. Investing in a diffuser or adding some drops into a bath can help energize or relax you, depending on the type of oil you choose to use.

5. Stick to a schedule.

With the weather rapidly changing from day to day, it is easy to feel like everything is getting out of control, which leaves you feeling unmotivated to complete your tasks and assignments. Sticking to a schedule, such as when you go to wake up and go to sleep with keep your sun exposure consistent and help reduce the symptoms of S.A.D.

These are just a few ways to help combat seasonal affective disorder, and more forms of help are being discovered every day. If you are suffering from S.A.D. or struggling with the changing weather, please know you're not alone. There are many resources both on and off-campus that can help you along with a plethora of sources on the internet. Even if it’s just in a small way, I hope this article helped too. Take care of yourselves, and good luck!

Sources: 1, 2

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