GUEST POST: Jennifer Scott on “Fighting SAD”
5 Tips for Fighting SAD
I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. To this day, it always finds a way to put me off kilter. One moment I’m feeling great, and the next, it knocks me down. Those days seem especially plentiful this time of year, when Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) tends to rear its ugly head. But, as I’ve learned more about–and received treatment for–my depression, I have found ways to manage it so that when it does knock me down, I can get right back up and take steps to infuse my days with happiness.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that coincides with the seasons, often beginning in the fall and lasting throughout the winter months. Most people with SAD have symptomatic relief as the days grow longer, the temperatures warmer, and the sun shines brighter. However, this is certainly the time of the year when SAD hits the hardest. If you’re currently struggling with SAD, here are a few ways to fight back:
Sleep Regularly, Eat Well, and Exercise. This idea is not new–it is something that everyone should be doing throughout the year, anyway, but it’s particularly important to maintain healthy habits if one suffers from SAD. Adequate rest, diet, and regular exercise all contribute to a positive mood and can help ease the symptoms of SAD. It doesn’t mean that one cannot enjoy a few sweets every now and then, but one should indulge in moderation and stick to healthy food options as much as possible.
Consider Phototherapy or Increase Your Exposure to Light. Shorter days mean fewer daylight hours, and this lack of exposure to the sun is believed to be one of the biggest contributing factors to SAD. People who suffer from this disorder can ease their symptoms by increasing their exposure to light during the cold winter months. Phototherapy often is provided through light boxes; spending time under fluorescent lights can also help reduce the feelings of sadness and depression one experiences from SAD.
Avoid Over-Indulging in Alcohol. While it’s fine to indulge in an adult beverage or two (provided you’re not on medications that have adverse reactions to alcohol or that you’re not in recovery from an addiction), drinking too much alcohol will only make the anxiety or depression you’re feeling in connection with SAD even worse. It might be fun while it lasts, but recovering from a binge the next day is no picnic. If you’re struggling with SAD, don’t overdo it when it comes to drinking–moderation is the key.
Think Summer. Warm temperatures and sunny days may be months away, but it doesn’t mean your days can’t be a little brighter. Conjure up the positivity and possibility that come with warmer temperatures by participating in summer activities during January and February. For example, you might invite a friend over for a summer movie marathon. Or, you may throw a summer-inspired party, like a luau, so that you and your friends can escape the cold and dreariness–at least in theory.
Consider Volunteering. One of the contributors to increased anxiety and depression for people with SAD is the tendency for activity levels to decrease. It’s cold outside, so staying in, snuggled in a cozy blanket in front of the fire may sound like the best way to spend your time. However, not taking the opportunity to get up, out, and active can increase feelings of loneliness and depression. Find a way to volunteer your time or do something to give back to others. Not only does it force you to get up and out of the house, but volunteering for a good cause naturally provides feel-good vibes and opportunities for socializing and connecting with new people.
Combating SAD’s symptoms may seem like an uphill battle. That’s why it’s important to take steps to maintain good health, keep bad habits in check, and find ways to get out and about and do something good for those less fortunate. Doing so will help to reduce the negative symptoms that plague us during these short, frigid days.
Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression. She created her website, SpiritFinder.org, as a platform for advocacy on opening up about mental health. Through the site, she hopes to share the types of steps and success stories that can help others realize their own power. When she isn’t working on her website, she enjoys traveling, working with animals, and seeking out new friendships and adventures.