The Winter Blues? or Something More?
Are you feeling a little sluggish both emotionally and physically this winter? Maybe you try to move on and chalk it up to the ‘winter blues’… but could it be something more? According to Mayo Clinic many Americans can be affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to Mayo Clinic here is the definition of SAD:
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
Furthermore, some of the causes of SAD are linked to your biological clock, serotonin levels, and melatonin levels being out of balance because of seasonal changes.
Biological Clock (Circadian Rhythm) – A reduction in the level of sunlight in Fall and Winter can cause an early onset of SAD. The disruption of receiving adequate amounts of sunlight can cause your bodies internal clock to become off which can lead to feelings of depression.
Serotonin Levels – Serotonin is a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood. A sudden drop in serotonin can lead to SAD. Reduced sunlight also affects serotonin levels, a sudden reduction in sunlight can lead to a drop in serotonin which can trigger depression.
Melatonin Levels – Changes of season have also been proven to affect the body’s balance of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that is largely responsible for sleep patterns and moods a person experiences.
Common Symptoms of SAD
How do you tell if you are suffering from SAD? One simple way is to compare your symptoms to the common symptoms associated with SAD. (Note: we also recommend if you feel you are suffering from SAD to follow up with your healthcare provider and doctor to get an expert diagnosis). Here is a list of the most common symptoms for winter-onset SAD:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Relational problems and social strain with others
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Appetite changes, most notably for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- Decreased interest in social activities and sex
- Experiencing fatigue during the daytime
Tips to Avoid SAD
The good news is if you feel you suffer from SAD there is hope for you. There are many easy steps you can take to help your body keep a healthy internal rhythm and proper levels of serotonin and melatonin through the winter months. According to Everyday Health here are some great ways to combat seasonal depression throughout winter:
- Light therapy – Light therapy boxes give off light that simulate natural sunlight for your body. Typically, those afflicted with SAD can sit in front of a light box for 30 minutes a day and this will help boost your body’s circadian rhythms and help balance the natural release of melatonin.
- Dawn simulators – These devices are like alarm clocks, but they produce light that gradually increases in intensity, just like the sun. Some research has been conducted to prove that dawn simulators are just as effective as light therapy box treatment for those with mild forms of SAD.
- Talk with your doctor – Because SAD is a form of depression, it is best diagnosed by talking with a mental health professional. Also, if you do have SAD, talking with a professional can help you work through it.
- Add aromatherapy – Essential oils from aromatherapy can help your SAD condition as well. These essential oils influence areas of the brain responsible for monitoring moods and the body’s internal clock which influences sleep and appetite. Using this method is as simple as adding a few drops of essential oils to your bath at night to help you relax.
- Get some exercise – One of the top methods for helping alleviate SAD is by simply exercising and getting more movement in your day. The natural sunlight will boost your recovery even more. However, if you can’t exercise outside because it is too cold or snowy you can always choose to do a workout on a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike close to the window at the gym.
- Stick to a schedule – People afflicted with winter-onset SAD often have trouble with their sleep cycles during winter. A simple and effective method for improving sleep is to maintain a regular sleep cycle to train your body and expose it to light in the morning at consistent and predictable times.
- Keep a journal – Writing down your thoughts can have a profound effect on your mood. Journaling for at least 20-30 minutes a day will allow you to vent and get negative feelings and attitudes out of your system.
- Get more vitamin D – Low levels of vitamin D intake have also been linked to SAD in some cases. In fact, according to study conducted in 2014 by Nutrients it was discovered that people who took vitamin D supplements saw significant improvements in their depression.
Live Cryo wishes you a winter season that is both healthy and free from SAD. There is one extra treatment that could help with winter-onset SAD. Whole body cryotherapy can aide in restful sleep, improved moods, and increased energy levels to combat the symptoms of SAD. For a full list of benefits check out our Why Do It? page.