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How to Deal with Seasonal Depression


The hallmark of seasonal depression is its cyclical nature. Every year, during a certain period, patients can predict a depressed mood and other symptoms. On the positive side, they can also look forward to a resolution when that time of year passes. Psychologists refer to the disorder as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of mood disorder that may not rise to the level of major depression, but shares many of the same symptoms.

Dealing with seasonal depression means taking direct action to both prevent and treat the condition. Because it is related to seasonal variations in the environment, one technique is to trick your body into thinking it is some other time of year. For fall and winter, SAD can be treated with a light box. This is a unit that produces a very bright light and patients expose themselves to it for a half hour or more every morning. This simple treatment has shown benefits, and it seems to fool our minds into thinking it is spring/summer instead of winter.

Another way to deal with the depression
is to try to prevent behavior patterns that emerge along with it. For example, trying to maintain a normal sleep schedule, even though the number of daylight hours has changed with the season. Melatonin is an over the counter supplement that can help, This hormone has been shown to aid regulation of the circadian rhythm – the normal day and night cycle that sets our internal clocks and tells us it’s time to sleep.

Along with keeping a regular sleep schedule, other recommendations include:
• Maintain a healthy, balanced diet – avoiding under and over eating.
• Limit alcohol intake (it may make you fall asleep easier, but disrupts the quality of sleep overall)
• Take medications as prescribed
• Feed your mind and spirit with time for yourself.
• Set and keep a regular exercise routine.
• Limit stressful situations.

For some seasonal allergies, especially those that occur during the spring/summer, look for underlying causes – allergies are a common trigger, where the misery that comes with the allergy slides into depression.

Because the seasonal nature tips off the environmental cause, one possible treatment is to change your environment. Swapping the winters of Wisconsin for the winters of Florida would be a possibility, as would be the obverse – switching up the heat and humidity of a summer in the south with the relatively cool summer of a northern state.

Because SAD can rise to the level of a medical condition, consulting a mental health professional will be beneficial. Do not think that “this is just how things are” or that you cannot take action to avoid the cyclical depression.

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