Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Naturally

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): A type of depression related to the changing seasons – typically fall into winter.

Do you feel SAD?

As the weather changes, you might be feeling a big change in your mood. At the time of writing this, we are full into the fall season and nearing the winter season – a time where many people experience SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Note: SAD comes and goes during the 4 seasons but typically manifests during the autumn and winter months.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

The Mayo Clinic defines Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as a “Type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

So you might be experiencing SAD if you feel depressed most of the day, have low energy, have trouble sleeping (typically oversleeping), feel changes in your appetite (typically overeating), have trouble focusing, or feel sluggish or agitated. Do any of those sound familiar to you?

SAD ranges in severity so you may be experiencing some symptoms now, while they can progress as the seasons continue to change.

Causes of SAD

There are a few causes of SAD. The biggest reason this occurs is because of time changes that throw off our body’s internal clock. As the winter solstice grows closer, the days get shorter – resulting in less sunlight and a drop in serotonin that we get from the sun. And finally, we can see a drop in melatonin levels – a major player in our sleep-wake cycles.

SAD is a disorder that affects many young adults. Paying attention to your mood and changes in your routine, energy, or mood can be a big help in identifying if you are experiencing SAD and managing it.

I’ve put together some tips for you on how to naturally cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Naturally

Food

Food is powerful medicine. Eating healthy ensures that we can fight disease, keep our systems regular, keep our organs healthy, as well as improve our mental state, and more.

Luckily, we can boost melatonin and serotonin through vegan-friendly food like the following:

Fruits: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Pineapple, Grapes, Oranges, Olives
Veggies: Asparagus, Broccoli, Potatoes, Spinach,
Grains: Rice, Quinoa, Tofu, Chickpeas, Seeds, and Nuts (like Flaxseed, Sunflower Seeds, or Walnuts)

When we are experiencing SAD we tend to turn towards carb-heavy foods like sweets and starches. Although it is hard not to dive into these foods during the holidays, try to monitor your intake.

Light

The change in natural daylight significantly affects our bodies. To cope with SAD, take advantage of the sun while you can – making sure you get in as much natural sunlight as you can throughout the day.

If this isn’t possible, you can invest in a special light targeted to treat SAD.

The Restored reports that we should also try to banish screens from the bedroom.

“Cells in our retina are finely tuned to respond to daylight. As the sun rises, our retinas tell the brain to stop producing drowsiness-inducing melatonin and start making the cortisol to wake us up. The short wave blue light from screens mimics daylight and that is what reduces melatonin production and makes it difficult to fall asleep.

Activity

The best cure for mental and physical sluggishness is to get in some physical activity which can help to boost our energy and improve our mood. Regular exercise helps to raise our serotonin levels. Try incorporating at least one hour of low-intensity exercise per week to combat feelings of seasonal depression.

The best way to get light and activity is to try to take a short walk outside every day if possible!

Whether a physical activity is accessible to you or not, you can go to a professional masseuse or have a loved one give you a massage to boost serotonin and dopamine levels!

You can also plan for daily activities that spark joy. This could be something as simple as hanging out with a friend, reading a good book, lighting your favorite candle, or taking a hot bath!

Seek Help

If SAD becomes something you cannot cope with, be sure to seek help from a professional. Additionally, you can find support from online groups, friends, or family. Remember – you are not alone.

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