What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs due to the change in daylight that typically occurs in the fall and winter. The changes in daylight has an affect on our circadian rhythm and can greatly affect our sleep/wake patterns and hormone regulation. SAD can cause a variety of symptoms that are consistent with depression but it happens in a seasonal pattern in line with the changing from warm to cold months. SAD is incredibly common and it can be difficult to overcome. Here at Bear Creek we wish the best for all our staff and customers, therefore we have found some tips to keep you healthy this winter season.
Prepare Yourself in the Fall
Similar to getting prepared for the winter months as you might do at home, preparing your mind is equally as important. During the fall months, getting into a routine of hobbies and activities during the cooler months can help to boost physical and psychological health. Having a routine established makes it easier to carry on into the winter months.
Prioritize Social Activities
It has been shown that isolation and loneliness can only amplify the effects of depression, especially in the winter. Connecting with those that you love and doing things you enjoy can help to improve mood as well as provide a support system. You could have a dinner party with family or take a walk with a neighbor, even the little things can help.
Let the Sunlight Through
Natural sunlight is critical and had to find during the short, winter months. Exposure to natural sunlight helps to increase serotonin production which is shown to boost mood, fighting off the effects of SAD. When it’s hard to get outdoors, simply opening the blinds on a sunny day can go a long way. It’s hard to beat the darkness when you’re in it, let the light shine through.
Set a Schedule
As important as sunlight is, it’s also incredibly important to match your schedule to patterns of the day. The rising and setting of the sun dictates our internal circadian rhythm, the rising of the sun sparks the release of cortisol which wakes us up and the setting sun sets melatonin in motion for us to sleep. Structuring your daily schedule around these times can aid in boosting productivity and mood. Prioritizing your favorite activities throughout the day gives you many things to look forward too in your day before winding down.
While being active is a healthy practice at any time of the year, it is especially important in the cold months when SAD symptoms are common. Regular activity, even just a few times a week, releases endorphins and dopamine in the brain that helps regulate and boost mood. Now you don’t need to go out and run a marathon every day but a brisk walk, a short bike ride, or shooting some hoops is a great way to get movement in. Finding movement that you enjoy is so important not just for the physical benefit but since it can give you something to look forward too in your day.
Keeping a Journal
When you’re struggling, finding some way to release the feelings and thoughts you have can be a helpful step in the healing process. Journaling is a fantastic way to process the thoughts and emotions you feel throughout the days and weeks that feel the lowest. Writing your thoughts down is a great way to ‘release’ them from your system and take the time to process why you feel the way you do. Additionally, journaling can be a way to track your process of recovery. Just 15 minutes a day of reflecting can make a world of a difference.
When the days are short and the nights are long, it’s important to take care of yourself and your wellbeing. Employing some of these techniques are great first steps when battling the common effects of SAD. Here at Bear Creek we believe that caring for your wellbeing is crucial and we hope that sharing this information can help you this winter season.