As the trees become bare, the skies grow dark, and the air begins to carry a little more of a bite — the feeling of gloom lingers a little longer. With the holidays just around the corner, sometimes it’s easy to feel lonely when we see everyone else gathering and preparing exciting plans together.
Sometimes, you’ll encounter days where you can’t seem to shake off the perpetual feeling of sleepiness, and you find yourself restless with nothing to do — not that you really felt like doing much, anyway.
Especially when the biting cold and unceasing darkness renders the idea of going outside so unapproachable.
But even during winter, the sun does shine every so often. Why do you have to be any different?
Although the winter blues are no joke, they don’t have to hamper your winter fun.
The following is all you need to know in order to help you understand and manage seasonal depression naturally.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a common variety of depression that typically occurs throughout late fall to early winter (November through February) and can last for up to 4-5 months per year. Sometimes SAD occurs in late spring to early summer, but this is far less common.
Roughly 5% of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder. Although this is a small percentage, millions of people are affected every year. So, you’re not alone in this.
Seasonal affective disorder can leave you feeling just as the acronym implies, SAD.
How does SAD differ from other kinds of depression?
Seasonal affective disorder differs from depression in the sense that it reoccurs during a particular time of the year. This means it’ll routinely crop up again around the same time of year, affecting you as the seasons change.
Seasonal affective disorder can present itself as:
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Losing interest in activities you usually enjoy (apathy)
- Reduced interest in social activities
- Feeling sad and fatigued consistently for days at a time
- Feelings of despair, worthlessness, guilt, hopelessness, and general irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Abnormal changes in appetite
Symptoms specifically associated with winter onset SAD are:
- An increase in appetite with a particular interest in sweets and carbs
- Sleeping more than usual and having trouble getting out of bed
- Having low energy despite excess sleep
- Weight gain
- Social withdrawal and self-isolation
Symptoms specifically associated with summer onset SAD are:
- Trouble sleeping and staying asleep
- Restlessness, agitation, and general irritability
- Disinterest in eating, or decreased appetite
Because the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can also be triggered by other health concerns, it’s important to speak with your doctor or mental health professional to determine the root cause of any symptoms you could be experiencing.
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Change in Circadian Rhythms
During seasons with shorter and darker days, your body produces higher levels of melatonin. This is also believed to be linked to playing a role in the immense sleepiness seasonal depression can bring.
Melatonin is a hormone your brain produces in response to darkness. It plays a lead role in your natural sleep cycle (circadian rhythms) as it triggers the body to rest and sleep.
The lack of sunlight also means less serotonin and Vitamin D is produced in the body.
Serotonin is a neurochemical found in the brain and gut that regulates mood. Lower levels of serotonin can cause feelings of sadness and worthlessness. It can also affect your natural sleep patterns, digestion, appetite, anxiety, sex drive, and issues with memory and learning.
This is also why gut health is important to your mental health.
When your environment is dark and gloomy, it can be easy to feel down. Combining this with feeling lonely and constant ruminating could easily lead to a cycle of negative thinking.
Our thought patterns are powerful enough to elicit emotions and feelings in the mind that can easily spiral out of control. This pattern becomes a feedback loop, leaving you feeling sad, guilty, or even worthless at times.
I want you to know that those repeating thoughts and doubts are all lies You are NOT worthless!
During these colder months, seasonal affective disorder can easily creep up without consistent habits that support your emotional and physical well-being.
by creating healthy habits that support your gut health, sleep cycle, and honor your emotions you can manage seasonal depression naturally.
Even journaling about what works and what doesn’t can go a long way in helping you to create better habits to help you feel better and enjoy this winter season.
Allow yourself grace during this time by being gentle with yourself and mindful of your self-talk.
To learn more about which habits and foods to implement into your daily life to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder check out our next blog post: “A Holistic Guide to Managing Seasonal Depression“
BLVCK LXTUS delivers content rooted in cutting-edge research and credible sources, guiding you confidently through your journey of empowerment and enlightenment.
Feeling Fatigued? Could It Be Magnesium Deficiency? (And If So, What to Do About It!). (2019, February 6). Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/feeling-fatigued-could-it-be-magnesium-deficiency-and-if-so-what-to-do-about-it/
Mayo Clinic. (2017). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2021, January). Melatonin: What You Need To Know. NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/melatonin-what-you-need-to-know
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