The start of fall is often marked by exciting traditions, beautiful scenery, and comforting treats. However, for many people, the transition from summer to fall brings with it a change in energy levels and mood that can feel depressing.
According to Women’s Health Expert Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones, “four out of five people who suffer from seasonal depression are women.” If you believe you are one of those women, here is a comprehensive guide to understanding seasonal depression, its symptoms, and, most importantly, how to cope with its effects so that you can take control of your health.Seasonal Changes, Mood ShiftsAs the seasons change from summer to fall, many people experience mood swings.
When there are fewer daylight hours and it is cold outside, it is more difficult to get outside and help our bodies naturally regulate our circadian clock using natural signals. Furthermore, a lack of sunlight may deplete our Vitamin D stores, resulting in decreased energy and serotonin levels (a brain chemical that helps us regulate our mood). According to Dr. Jones, “about one in every twenty people experience seasonal variation in depression, with fall and winter showing a rise in depression.
” If you’ve noticed that you’re feeling sadder, having more difficulty sleeping, having less energy, or lacking motivation, you may be experiencing seasonal mood changes. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the winter months.It is a matter of degree and duration whether your seasonal mood changes are referred to as “winter blues” or the more serious Seasonal Affective Disorder. Your doctor can assist you in determining what your specific symptoms mean.
Winter blues, in general, last for a shorter period of time and do not interfere with your ability to perform regular daily functions. In Very Well Mind, Kristen Fuller, MD, explains that SAD is “more than the ‘winter blues,’ because symptoms of SAD can be severe and even debilitating.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD in the fall and winter can cause weight gain and a craving for carbohydrates, in addition to other typical seasonal depression symptoms.Fortunately, those suffering from seasonal depression have a variety of treatment options available, both in consultation with a doctor and at home on your own.
Therapy with Light (Natural and Artificial)Light is one of the most important tools for combating seasonal depression; increase your exposure to light, and many of your symptoms may improve dramatically.
According to Dr. Jones, “bright light therapy in the mornings…has been shown to be effective in decreasing symptoms in up to 85 percent of women with [SAD].” If possible, spend the morning hours outside soaking up as much natural light as possible.
Purchase a light box that is designed to mimic outdoor light while minimising UV rays as a supplement. Using the light box in the morning for 20-30 minutes can help restore your body’s natural rhythms and increase serotonin levels.
Meditation and AromatherapyEssential oils have been shown to help some women combat depression. The precise mechanism is unknown, but according to the Mayo Clinic, “aromatherapy is thought to work by stimulating smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system to the limbic system — the part of the brain that controls emotions.” Lavender, bergamot, jasmine, and sandalwood are popular oils for treating depression.
Combine aromatherapy with a meditation routine focused on light, hope, and gratitude.Regular Physical ActivityAdd another reason to exercise to your list: preventing seasonal depression.
According to both Drs. Jones and Fuller, regular physical activity can help regulate your body’s rhythms and boost your mood by flooding your brain with endorphins. If you’re having trouble sticking to a routine, arrange an exercise date with a friend or enrol in an online class.
What’s even better? Exercising outside allows you to combine additional sunlight with physical activity.NutritionAlthough eating a well-balanced diet is important all year, it is especially important to focus on nutrition during bouts of seasonal depression. Although you may crave more carbohydrates, make sure to include enough whole grains and vegetables to keep you full and give you plenty of energy. Choose foods high in Vitamin D, such as fish and fortified grains, to help combat low levels of this nutrient during these times.
If your doctor determines that you are still not getting enough Vitamin D from food alone, incorporate a supplement into your daily routine.These wellness routines are a great way for women to stay holistically fit as the seasons change from summer to fall, so whether you’ve experienced seasonal depression in the past or not, try incorporating these practises into your life today! And, of course, if you are experiencing symptoms of seasonal depression, consult with your doctor about the best treatment options.
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