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Best Ways to Beat the Winter Blues (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Feeling blue? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a form of depression occurring primarily in the fall and winter. As many as 20 percent of Americans may have a mild form of SAD. The good news? Mild SAD is manageable, especially for San Diego residents, who have the advantage of being able to get outside to soak up the sun, even in winter when the days are shorter.

What is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder is triggered by the change in seasons. Winter means shorter days and less sunlight, which can throw off your biological rhythms and cause your melatonin and serotonin levels to drop, impacting your mood and sleep patterns. SAD is more common in women and older adults. Individuals with clinical depression or bipolar disorder may also be more at risk.

Symptoms

SAD can have a variety of symptoms. You may feel moody, have less energy, suffer from a lack of motivation, experience a change in appetite or weight, or find yourself oversleeping. If these symptoms sound familiar, you may be experiencing a form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Use these tips to beat the blues this winter.

1. Talk with your doctor

Because SAD is a form of depression, it’s best diagnosed by talking with a mental health professional. If your symptoms persist or increase, make an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can rule out any other health problems that could be contributing to your symptoms and, if necessary, refer you to a practitioner who specializes in mental health. SAD can be treated with light therapy designed to simulate outdoor light, as well as with psychotherapy and medication. Be sure to come prepared with a list of symptoms you’ve been experiencing and questions for your doctor.

2. Keep moving

Exercise can help alleviate seasonal affective disorder. Try to get some exercise outdoors to take advantage of sunlight and fresh air. Go for a walk or jog, or take a bike ride. If it’s too cold, rainy, or snowy outside, indoor exercise can help as well. Try a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine close to a window at the gym or at home.

3. Let the sunshine in

Because light is a key factor in SAD, it’s important to take advantage of sunlight as much as you can. Do your best to get outside as much as possible during the day. You should also make sure that your home is letting in as much light as possible. Keep curtains open, spend your time in rooms with the most light, and consider moving furniture closer to windows.

4. Keep a journal

Writing down your thoughts can have a positive effect on your mood. Journaling about negative thoughts and worries may help you to cope with them and give you a greater understanding of what’s causing you to feel down.

 

If you’re feeling depressed, it’s important to talk to a doctor. Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups offers access to over 850 doctors throughout San Diego. Find a doctor that’s right for you today.

 

CATEGORIES: Managing Illness

 

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