Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a condition that describes a cycle of fatigue, loss of motivation, and other common depressive symptoms that seem to ebb and flow with the ever-changing seasonal weather patterns.
What Exactly Does SAD Look Like?
Let's talk about how SAD differs from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
SAD generally has identical symptoms to MDD with the exception of the timeframe those symptoms present themselves. SAD is characterized by depressive symptoms most notable at the start of a given season (Typically Fall or Winter).
For example, as Fall begins, you may feel lethargic, unmotivated, and unfocused. As Winter comes along, you may begin to experience tearful spells, hopelessness, despair, loss of appetite, and even thoughts of suicide. Generally, as Spring rolls around, symptoms appear to dissipate, but as Summer hits, complementary symptoms might appear. You may begin to feel restless, irritable, scattered, anxious, and experience intense food cravings or the desire to binge eat.
SAD During A Pandemic
Dealing with these symptoms is difficult enough; then, throw in a global pandemic and you may find yourself in an absolute nightmare.
Picture this: you are exhausted, depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and alone. You think about all your obligations, the expectations others have of you, and it consumes you. It overrides your emotional capabilities. You want to avoid it all and you end up falling into a deeper realm of withdrawal, confusion, and despair. You feel nothingness, a heavy sense of emptiness, a deep void of darkness. You might even wish you could take one of Elon Musk's spacecrafts to the moon just to escape it. The worst part is, you feel that no one is coming with you and you aren't sure you'll ever make it back in one piece. Sadly, (no pun intended) for many of us who struggle with SAD, this is our reality.
What Can I Do About This?
Have no fear! While life with SAD can be debilitating in some cases, there are some natural options you can try to attempt to remedy these symptoms without calling up your primary care physician for the most effective antidepressant. Below is a list of some things to try when dealing with SAD:
1) Stick to a bedtime/sleeping schedule. Appropriate amounts of sleep can increase mood and focus.
2) Exercise: I know—the last thing you want you do when you feel depressed. But, something as small as a 10 minute walk can boost your mood.
3) Hygiene: this is a good way to give yourself a quick mood boost. A nice warm shower or bubble bath can really give you a jumpstart at any point in the day. Presenting yourself as if you are going out on the town, even if you choose to stay in, can help rewire your brain into a sociable state.
4) Vitamins: B6, B12, and Vitamin D are known to increase mood and energy levels. Vitamin D is most accessible through sunlight. However, in the winter months, the sun seems to miss us more often than not. No worries! Vitamin D and other vitamin supplements can be found over the counter (consult your physician for medical advice).
5) Diet: Eat nutrient-rich foods without added sugars and avoid foods high in saturated fats. Foods with omega-3s and antioxidants are your best bet. A little dark chocolate and small amounts of caffeine can prove to be helpful too.
6) Fasting: (and not just from food; i.e. social media, Facebook, Tik Tok, etc.) can help reset the pleasure centers in our brain. Keep in mind, proper diet and striving for balance supersedes fasting.
7) Phototherapy: Therapy Lights also allows us to experience the benefits of sunlight without the harsh UV rays. You can usually find these ranging from $30-$50.
8) Stay Connected: reach out to your family, friends, and coworkers. Set up a Zoom session and plan a family game night. Send a funny meme to your friends or favorite coworkers.
This pandemic has made working remotely more feasible. As we return to a new state of normalcy, staying connected can help us take inventory of our mental health, and it can help us gauge where we are. If energy is low, find ways to boost it; if anxiety is high, find ways to lower your stress level. Taking a daily inventory of: "How am I feeling?" "What do I need, think, or want?" can be the difference between feeling stuck and feeling a sense of control over your life.
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
Naya Clinics offers Marriage Counselors near me, individual therapy near me, and life coaching near me in various locations across the USA and the world. Naya Clinics also offers Online marriage counseling, online therapy, and online life coaching.
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