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Coping with Seasonal Depression

While kids are buzzing with the excitement of getting back to school and the days growing shorter, have you found yourself feeling down for no apparent reason as summer closes? You’re not alone.

Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a little-known condition that’s more common condition than you think.

What is seasonal depression?

Affecting about 5% of the population, SAD — as the name implies — is a depression-like state that comes with the changing of the seasons. It’s most often noticed as the summer season transition gives way to fall and winter.

SAD can be so severe that it interferes with your daily life. Symptoms range from just feeling a little rundown to more intense feelings such as depression, overeating, heightened anxiety, sleeping more than usual and a dislike or unenjoyment of things you normally love to do. 

Symptoms are more common in women than men. Symptoms also affect those who live in the northern hemisphere more than those who live farther south. Those who are already living with depression are more likely to develop SAD.

How to cope with seasonal depression.

SAD is usually associated with the fact that daylight hours are shorter in the fall and winter months. After being able to explore outdoor activities during the spring and summer, being stuck inside deprives you of fresh air and the extra vitamin D the sun provides.

Here are tips to help you cope with SAD:

  • Keep an eye out for symptoms. If you or your child feel less motivated or notice worsening depression as the seasons change, it could be SAD. Pay attention to how your symptoms progress from September to December, as added stress during the holidays can exacerbate SAD.
  • Light up your life. Sunlight is essential for good health, but the fall and winter months limit our exposure to natural light. Try using light therapy to combat SAD symptoms.
  • Good food means good physical — and mental — health. Indulging in treats during the holidays can be enjoyable, but individuals with SAD may have insatiable cravings for carbohydrates, sweets and sugars. Balancing your meals and maintaining a well-rounded diet can help manage SAD symptoms. 
  • Get moving. Regular exercise is a powerful weapon against SAD and other mental health issues. Don't let the winter months prevent you from exercising. Look for low-cost or free options at local parks and recreation departments or try online fitness classes. Set goals and celebrate your accomplishments.
  • Manage stress. Take time for yourself and find moments of peace amid the chaos of school, work and holiday preparations. Reflect on your daily achievements and treat yourself to self-care activities like bubble baths or quiet meditation.
  • Willowbrooke at Tanner offers effective treatments that can help you overcome SAD and get back to a healthy life. See how we can help at WillowbrookeAtTanner.org or reach our 24-hour help line at 770-812-9551.

Get more insight into SAD with this quiz from our Health Library.

Tanner Health System, Behavioral Health Care, Tanner Medical Group

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