Firstly, let’s learn some general facts about seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder: what is it and what are the symptoms and signs? Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of the major depressive disorder that reoccurs year after year during the autumn and winter months when we lack natural sunlight. Symptoms of SAD may vary and go differently, but often include sleep problems, difficulty of awakening in the morning, changes in mood, appetite or weight, carbohydrate cravings, lack of energy, body aches and pains, memory loss, difficulty making decisions, concentration problems, low self-esteem, alienation, lack of interest in activities enjoyed at other times, loss of sex drive, and suicidal thoughts in severe cases.
How to prevent seasonal depression?
There are no accurate methods to stop the development of the seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In fact, each person needs individual approach. You should be aware of your personal traits so you can choose the most effective ways to prevent the development of SAD. However, if you take steps early on to manage symptoms, you may be able to prevent them from getting worse over time.
Some people find it helpful to prepare before first signs would normally start in the fall or winter, and then continue prevention, after all, symptoms of SAD would usually vanish. Other people need continuous preparation.
If you can control your symptoms before they get worse, you may get rid of serious changes in mood, appetite and energy levels.
Winter is coming, to prevent SAD you should take into consideration these recommendations and good pieces of advice and follow them.
More ways to keep your spirits high: How to Deal with Depression – 8 Strategies
Go for a walk, even in cold weather. An hour spent outdoors walking in autumn or winter sunlight is as helpful and effective as 2-1/2 hours of light box therapy. Midday, when the sun is at its highest point and its light is strongest, is believed to be the most effective period of time to walk during autumn and winter months. Plus you should spend some time outdoors every day. Exposure to daylight is beneficial, even on cloudy and unpleasant days. Walking in nature—especially with other people—is also an effective way to beat back depression.
Eat healthy food, follow a well-balanced diet in order to get sufficient amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. Regular physical activity helps reduce both depression and fatigue. When possible, exercise during the day near sources of light. If possible, find an outdoor sport or hobby that you can enjoy during the winter months to encourage you to spend more time outdoors. Physical activities elevate your spirit and mood, plus keep you fit and healthy as a result there is no place for depression. If you are not fond of sport, walking is the best solution and may also help relieve symptoms.
Enjoy your regular preferable activities, including communication with family and friends, as much as you can. Social contact and support are very essential when suffering from mood disorders.
Increase your taking of Vitamin D. A minimum of 400 IUs per day are recommended, although some doctors recommend higher doses. Discuss higher doses with your doctor for the time of year when your SAD symptoms occur. Begin the higher doses before the first signs appear and continue until you are able to get sufficient daily natural sunlight again.
Brighten up your home or office. Open blinds and curtains in your home or office to let in so much natural light as possible. The arrangement of your room should be appropriate for exposure to light while eating, reading, working, or watching TV. Some people have found that increasing the amount of indoor lighting with regular lamps can help them out of the winter doldrums. However, those who have severe seasonal affective disorder require exposure to much higher light levels than can be provided by indoor lights and ceiling fixtures.
Sit by the window whenever you can, preferably when you can enjoy natural sunlight.
Use a light therapy box. Usually, light therapy consists of sitting for 30 minutes in front of a 10,000-lux light box in the early morning to imitate natural sunlight. Begin light therapy before symptoms of SAD outbreak.
Join a SAD support group. In addition to social support, you may also learn about other methods and resources that people are using to beat their symptoms.
If you have the opportunity to have a break from your daily routine then go for it. Vacation in a warm, sunny place is the best solution during the time of year when your symptoms are worse. Even short vacations with plenty of the sunlight can help to escape from the cold and gloomy weather.
Communicate with people. Find some friends that will enjoy the daylight with you, work out with you, drag you out of the house for a while, or who’ll come over and keep you company. Keep your friendships and social relationships strong, it will also help a lot, and keep you from wasting the winter time away alone at home. Learn how to enjoy the winter because it has many advantages.
If symptoms of SAD persist despite your preventive efforts, consult your doctor who can provide you a customized treatment plan or prescribe antidepressants.