Leaving the house when it’s dark and coming back home when it’s dark, wind and rain, cold temperatures, yes, winter is definitely here. We are confined to spend our time inside, barely see any daylight and get less sun, thus vitamin C. This can lead to feeling more lethargic, having Trouble concentrating and a whole number of dark and depressing feelings. When the days get shorter and the temperature drops, many people see their mood dropping below zero as well.
There are different kinds of seasonal depression. How do you know in which category you fall? What are the signs of a seasonal depression and how do you know if it is the winter blues or a seasonal effective disorder? And what are the treatments?
Winter Blues or SAD?
The winter blues usually starts when the days get shorter and the temperature drops. So from October until April. You feel more tired and gloomy than usual, but even though you might have less energy, you still enjoy your work, activities and family and friends.
Seasonal effective disorder is a recurrent kind of depression, which sets in with the change of seasons. It starts affecting all aspects of your life and is not just a wish to stay in bed longer, to sleep some more or to long for spring to come. It is more common with women, but is not age related. The signs are much stronger than with the winter blues:
- Sadness, moodiness, and dark thoughts on things in life generally
- dragging yourself out of bed every day and feeling fatigued and lethargic
- Having trouble concentrating and focusing
- avoiding social contacts
- in need of sleep
- Gaining weight, mostly because you crave for sweets and carbs
- little patience with your loved ones, you are constantly snapping at them for no apparent reason
- Lack of interest in everything, also the activities you normally love
People with sad are suffering every day from their depression. It is very important to recognize the signs and to get help.
The cause of SAD and winter blues
The lack of sun is the most important factor in causing both SAD and winter blues. This is also why people living in northern regions where there is rain, wind and snow during winter, are experiencing a winter depression more often than people living in southern areas.
When we have less sun or daylight, this can cause following problems:
- During daylight our body produces serotonin, which is the feel-good neurotransmitter, and which contributes to feelings as happiness and well-being. It also regulates our memory, appetite and energy. Of course, when there is less daylight, less serotonin is being produced and a depression can set in.
- your internal clock, also called circadian rhythms, is disturbed. It normally regulates your sleep/wake cycles, but it doesn’t function very well during a winter depression
- the sleeping hormone melatonin is not working well either when you’re having a winter depression. This hormone makes sure we get sleepy when there is less daylight.
These things can really impact your mood, and lead from one thing to another. You start seeing everything in a negative way and it can be difficult to find your way out.
Where does SAD come from?
Before the industrial revolution, most people used to work on the land. As there was no electricity, they had to adapt themselves to the different seasons. This meant that during winter, they stopped working when it got dark and they started with daylight. Their working days were shorter during winter than during summer. This all changed with the industrial revolution around 1820. People worked less on the land and more in the industry. The result was that people no longer woke up the natural way with the sun coming up, but with a working schedule.
Today, the alarm clock rings at 6 or 7 am every day, you have to get up, take care of the children, bring them to school and hurry to work. Here lies the biggest danger for people who suffer from a winter depression. It is not possible to sleep more during winter because this would be the natural rhythm of your body. You have to get up and be active before the set of day when your brain is still in a sleeping modes. Being forced to get up early in the winter disturbs our biological clock and the effects can be big.
What are the treatments?
First of all, recognizing that you are suffering from SAD is the first step towards the right direction. You will probably need to get help. When you are feeling down, you tend to ignore your feelings. You do not want your family or your boss to think that you are weak, you want to show them that you are capable of keeping all the balls up in the air. But even if you have always managed to do this until now, it is possible that you have not seen the depression coming.
Do not ignore your negative feelings by spending too much money on shopping or by drinking them away with alcohol, there are better ways to solve your problems. Acknowledge the fact that you have a problem. By accepting it, you will immediately take away a big part of emotional stress.
There are different solutions to treat a winter depression, you can discuss the options with your physician.
When it is possible to get natural sunlight, then try to do this as much as possible. Preferably when the sun is at its highest, between 10 am and 3 pm. Go for a walk, do some exercise. You will see, this does wonders to your mood!
Light therapy can be just as effective as an antidepressants . Light boxes that replicate natural light is an effective and common way to treat depression. It is important to get a prescription from your physician and to follow the orders, in order to avoid side effects like headache. Read more about light therapy solutions in my light therapy product reviews by clicking here.
This will teach you how to recognize negative thoughts and how to handle them. This is a long term solution. It is proven that after two winters of cognitive brain therapy, the chance of repeated depression is smaller than after two winters of light therapy.
Eat healthy food; vegetables, fruits, fibers, proteins, etc. Go to bed and get up at regular times. Do activities you have always liked to do, even when you have to force yourself a bit to do them. You will learn how to enjoy them again. Do not avoid social contacts; spend time with your friends and loved-ones. Talk about your feelings, only then people can be supportive.