Melt the Blues Away
Feeling down this winter? If so, you’re not alone.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of recurring depression that an estimated 5% of the population experience during the months when daylight is in short supply—particularly in winter.
And this disorder may be even more common than usual this year due to the pandemic.
“COVID has brought major life changes, traumas, and stresses to a great number of people—not to mention the physical illnesses for those positively affected by the virus. This could become a serious concern for those with a history of SAD, particularly in the northern parts of our country and even more so in the areas most affected by the pandemic,” says behavioral health therapist Dayry Hulkow.
But here’s the good news: there are strategies to combat SAD you can start implementing right away to make a difference in the weeks and months ahead.
Lighten the Mood
One of the most effective and common treatments for SAD can be done right from your own home: light therapy.
The theory behind this technique involves our circadian rhythm—the biological clock in our bodies that roughly align with a 24-hour day. The most important trigger for our circadian rhythm to stay in sync is natural light… so when daylight starts receding during autumn, our rhythms can get out of alignment.
Thankfully, there are lamps that mimic the sunlight our circadian rhythm needs to stay on course. Not just any light source will work for this sort of treatment, however. An effective SAD lamp needs to be a certain size with a specific lux output and viewing angle to be effective.
There are plenty of good options available though—just be sure you know what you’re looking for so you don’t end up wasting money on product that doesn’t help.
Verify Your Vitamin D Levels
35% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D—also known as the sunshine vitamin. And in the winter, when the days are short and the skies are gray, our vitamin D levels tend to drop even further.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to SAD and other health risks. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given how closely the vitamin is tied to the amount of natural light exposure we get.
Thankfully, replenishing it is simple—even when you’re stuck indoors. You can pick up a vitamin D supplement (found at any drugstore) or just change your diet to incorporate more foods rich in the substance.
Unsure how your vitamin D levels are faring? You can have them checked by your doctor with a simple blood test—that way you’ll know just how big a factor vitamin D is playing in your mood.
Don’t Be Afraid to See a Professional
There are many avenues for tackling mental health problems—including medication and therapy sessions.
Since SAD doesn’t last year-round, it can be easy to convince yourself to just wait it out. But if light therapy and vitamin D haven’t alleviated your symptoms, professional help could potentially make a big difference.
One of the few silver linings to the COVID-19 pandemic is that access to these services is easier than ever. Many healthcare facilities now let you see your doctor right from the comfort of your own home. Oftentimes, you can discuss your symptoms and get a prescription in one short, virtual visit.
Virtual therapy is also booming. Sites like BetterHelp have licensed therapists from all across the country you can connect with from your screen. They also have financial aid options if initial rates don’t fall within your budget.
If you’ve struggled with SAD (or any mental health disorder) and DIY remedies aren’t cutting it, move these options to the top of your consideration list.
Put Your Blues on Ice
This time of year can be tough even in the best of circumstances—let alone during a global pandemic.
But you don’t have to suffer in silence. So make a commitment to prioritize your mental health this season and beyond because you deserve a bright 2021!