While fall in Florida is not quite the same as fall for our northern neighboring states, it still brings with it pumpkin-spice-flavored everything, cooler mornings, less humidity, and the chance for more mental health issues. Wait…what? You might be wondering what fall and mental health have to do with each other. Well, the changing of the seasons seems to trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or otherwise known as seasonal depression.
Seasonal affective disorder typically begins in the fall, gets worse in the winter, and gradually ends in the springtime. While everyone can feel a little down during the colder months when there are less hours of daylight and more time is spent inside, it is a little different for some people. SAD is actually a form of depression and can affect the way a person physically feels and thinks. These feelings can gradually get worse as the winter wears on.
Symptoms of SAD
Here are some of the most common symptoms for those experiencing SAD during the winter months:
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Feeling sad or depressed all of the time
- Low energy and fatigue
- Sleeping too much
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling of heaviness in your limbs
- Changes in your appetite
- Craving carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Increased agitation or irritability
- Thoughts about death or suicide
As you read through the above list, you might be mentally checking off each box. However, it is important not to try to diagnose yourself when you are dealing with these feelings or suspecting you might have SAD. You should make an appointment with a health care provider to discuss your feelings and symptoms. Another physical problem, such as an issue with your thyroid, or another mental health issue might actually be causing the symptoms instead. Only a qualified health care provider will be able to determine this for you.
Treatment Options for SAD
Your health care provider will also be able to help you determine what might be the best treatment options, or even home remedies, to help you work through SAD. Here are some of those treatment options:
- Vitamin D: Low levels of vitamin D are common in people who are experiencing SAD. This could be due to not enough exposure to sunlight, but it also could be due to a diet low in vitamin D. Speak to your mental health care provider about the possibility of supplementing your diet with vitamin D.
- Phototherapy: Light therapy is one of the most common (and first) treatment options for those dealing with SAD. It involves sitting near a special light box for up to an hour each day, typically during the morning hours. This exposure to the box’s light seems to cause a change in the brain chemicals that are linked to one’s mood.
- Antidepressant medications: Sometimes medications will be needed to help a person deal with symptoms related to SAD. Your health care provider will determine if this is something that might be beneficial to you.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This type of therapy is basically talk therapy, where your health care provider can help you learn how to find healthy ways to deal with stress and SAD. They can also help you identify and change your current behaviors or negative thoughts that might be making you feel worse.
- Relaxation techniques: Activities that promote relaxation are helpful for those dealing with SAD. These might include prayer, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and music therapy.
- More time outdoors: The sun is a natural source of vitamin D. Your time outdoors doesn’t have to be doing anything overtly physical. It could literally just be sitting outside on a bench in the sun for a period of time, eating lunch outside, or relaxing beside a pool or on the beach.
- Regular exercise: Physical activity helps relieve anxiety, stress, and feelings of sadness. While you can do rigorous weight training and other strenuous activities, a simple walk outdoors or a round of golf works as well. It gets your body moving; and as an added bonus, it gives you more time outside in the sunlight.
- Brighter home or office: An easy way to help improve your SAD symptoms is to allow more light into your home or office. This might mean that you need to open all the blinds and curtains in your home fully every day. If you typically sit in one place most of the day, move your chair closer to a bright window. You might even need to trim back the landscaping around your home to allow more light to shine through the windows.
Partnering with You
Whether you are dealing with full-on SAD or just a little winter blues, there are ways you can bolster your mental health. Here at AllCare Medical Centers, we want to partner with you, resource you, and help you find relief from any symptoms or feelings you might be experiencing from SAD or any other mental health issue. You do not have to go through these feelings alone. We care about you and want to help you. Give us a call today or schedule an appointment online to speak to one of our caring mental health practitioners!