For this month’s wellness blog, I will be highlighting a health topic that hits close to home for many of my patients around this time of year. Seasonal depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a type of depression that is linked to seasonal change. This is particularly prominent in Windsor-Essex County since we experience four distinct seasons. Seasonal depression starts near the end of fall and stays around until the start of summer for most individuals who suffer from the disorder.
How can you tell if you are suffering from seasonal depression? If you feel like you experience any of the following symptoms only at specific times of the year (usually around winter), you could be suffering from seasonal depression.
- A sad, despairing mood that lasts for an extended period.
- A loss of interest in work, hobbies, or social interactions.
- Changes in appetite or weight.
- Feeling useless, hopeless, agitated, pessimistic, or slowed down.
- The trouble with cognitive efficiency or performance.
For a comprehensive list of seasonal depression symptoms, please view this article created by The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Canada.
Before we talk about the actions that you can take to combat your seasonal depression, I want to briefly talk about committing to the action itself. Committing to getting better when you are suffering from any level of mental disorder is difficult. The symptoms you experience are in direct conflict with the steps that you need to make to overcome them. Being proactive with your mental health is never the wrong action and highlights the strength that you have. Here is how you can fight seasonal depression and improve brain health at the same time.
1. Talk to Your Doctor
The first and most important recommendation I can make regarding seasonal depression is to speak to your healthcare practitioner. They know your health history, they can complete the tests to understand your profile, and they can pinpoint specific deficiencies within your lifestyle that could be feeding into the disorder. This is important whether you are my patient or not. An expert in your health should be included in the conversion of your mental health. Your mental health is just as important as your physical!
2. The Importance of Vitamin D & Sunlight Exposure
Vitamin D is arguably the most prominent nutrient concerning your overall mood. Many of my patient’s D levels take a big dip after the summer sun has set. This is because we no longer spend significant amounts of time out in the sun during the colder months (our main source of vitamin D). So… what makes vitamin D so important? Vitamin D is an essential nutrient cofactor for the body’s neurotransmitters and has shown to have a positive impact on your immune system function. If you are getting less sun during these months, you should consider supplementation or light therapy.
3. Practice being Physically & Socially Active
Does this sound like you? You have a packed summer schedule of social outings, physical exercise, and outdoor adventures. Then, once the chill arrives your schedule consists of waking up, working, getting home, sleeping, and repeating. This is a reality for a lot of residents in Windsor-Essex! The importance of physical and social activities does not disappear just because the winter is here. These active/social outings that allow us to “break out from the norm” are vital for your daily mood, motivation, and ability to ward off depressive thoughts.
Your mental health is important and life is just too short to wait for your happiness to return once the season changes. You are not alone in facing seasonal depression and you should never keep depression of any form to yourself. I hope this blog post gives you the starting point you need to get rid of the winter blues.