Six Ways to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
About 6 percent of Americans suffer from season affective disorder (SAD), in which the decreased daylight of the winter negatively impacts a person’s mood, productivity, energy level, and sleep pattern. Millions more people feel what can be described as winter blahs—not a clinical diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder, but a definite onset of milder SAD.
Alaskans can take steps of their own to try making the winter blues less blue. Here are six strategies to combat seasonal affective disorder. Note, these suggestions are merely ideas to help with SAD and not necessarily cure-alls. If these strategies aren’t helping, or if you feel depression or any suicidal thoughts, consult a physician for a more direct plan of treatment that may include drugs and/or psychotherapy.
1. Brighten your house
If seasonal affective disorder is leaving you in darkness too often, finding ways to lighten up your environment can help. During the day, open shades and blinds to bring more natural light inside. In the evening and at night, turn on more lights, even if you don’t quite need them. And if you know you are prone to winter doldrums, consider painting at least one room of your home a brighter color to amplify the light you have.
2. Get outside more
If possible, get into what little daylight Alaska winters offer. Go for a walk during your lunch hour; get outside on your break and make a phone call; bundle up and do something outdoors on weekends. Even cloudy days will offer enough light to help your mood.
Regular exercise has been shown to lessen the symptoms of season affective disorder. Exercising outside during the daytime is ideal, but any workout any time of day, inside or out, can help. If your child is experiencing SAD symptoms, take them swimming in an indoor pool—the exercise will benefit both of you, and the splashing around (yes, you should splash around, too!) will remind your kid of summer, possibly improving his or her mood at least for a little while.
4. Healthier eating
People experiencing seasonal affective disorder can turn to comfort foods to deal with their doldrums, but many junk foods aren’t conducive to maintaining the active energy level that can be lacking every winter. You can start feeling more fatigued and moody, which could lead you to more junk food, and so on. Occasional comfort food is fine, but balance it with plenty of healthy choices as well.
5. Winter vacations
Taking a vacation to a sunnier clime in the dead of winter can improve your mood and get you some much needed extra hours of daylight. For Alaskans, however, flying south can be a tricky, and expensive, proposition. If you know winter gives you the blues, planning a trip ahead of time can save you money and give you something to look forward to. Airlines often offer spur-of-the-moment fares; if you have a weekend free and can take advantage of such a deal, three days in California can do wonders for a seasonal affective disorder sufferer.
6. Light therapy
Many types of lamps are available that simulate sunlight and have been proven to help seasonal affective disorder sufferers. Light therapy isn’t for everybody, however, and can exacerbate other medical conditions, so consult a physician before turning to this SAD strategy.
If you are unsure if you are suffering from SAD or another sleep disorder, contact the experts at Alaska Sleep Clinic to learn more about what might be causing your winter mood.
What are your strategies for dealing with the winter blahs?