Six Tips to Help with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Cold, gray days with fewer hours of sunlight are known to spark feelings of the ‘winter blues’ or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), especially among women. Along with sadness and depression, symptoms such as extreme fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, seeking isolation, irritability, and even sugar or carbohydrate cravings may occur. If you’ve noticed a spike in these types of symptoms with the changing of the season, bringing your body back into balance can help, leaving you free to enjoy the relative calm and quiet of the winter months rather than suffering in a depressed state.
SAD has been linked to an imbalance between serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter closely linked to mood and depression, is produced by exposure to light, while the production of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, increases with darkness. These help with your sleep/wake cycle, and if this cycle is out of balance, feelings of sadness and fatigue can result. For some, levels of serotonin begin to dip and mental health starts declining already in the late fall.
Working with a specially trained physician to come up with a targeted health plan can help ease symptoms of SAD, as can incorporating the following healthy practices into your life…
Six Tips to Help With Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Go Green. Leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, kale, and romaine lettuce are high in folate, a B vitamin shown by several studies to help relieve depression symptoms, including those associated with SAD.
- Get Outside and Get Moving. Exercise helps increase serotonin and is a great way of dealing with depression. Exercising outdoors is even better as the exposure to sunlight can help increase vitamin D levels and help restore proper balance between serotonin and melatonin.
- Get on a Sleep Schedule. Following a regular sleep schedule, especially one that takes advantage of the decreased hours of daylight during the winter months, will help promote healthy sleep habits, encouraging the body to maintain a healthy serotonin/melatonin balance.
- Lighten Up. The decrease in daylight hours during winter triggers the pineal gland to convert serotonin into melatonin, causing the body to slow down. Phototherapy can counteract this cycle and help the brain produce more serotonin. Many studies, including those by experts at the National Institute of Mental Health, found light therapy to provide significant relief for SAD symptoms. Unlike prescription drugs or other medicine, side effects are rare and often mild.
- Cut Coffee & Sugar. While stimulants like coffee and chocolate may temporarily boost mood, they can disrupt insulin levels. Avoiding or limiting intake may help naturally balance mood.
- Eat More Fatty Fish. In addition to a long list of health benefits, including a decreased risk of heart disease and stroke, there have been many studies linking the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil to reduced levels of depression. If you opt for a supplement, make sure to go for a pharmaceutical-grade fish oil supplement to ensure efficacy and prevent toxin exposure.
It can be very difficult to properly balance serotonin and melatonin hormones with at-home care. Consulting an expert to ensure safe, effective treatment for SAD and other mood disorders can help. The expert physicians of the BodyLogicMD network may recommend the addition of progesterone, as low levels have been linked to anxiety and depression. They may also test your vitamin D levels and recommend a pharmaceutical-grade vitamin D supplement. Contact a specialist in the BodyLogicMD network today to help you develop a customized wellness plan tailored to your specific needs, and start looking forward to a brighter winter season.