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Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to Cope with SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder: How to Cope with SAD

By Jorge Arredondo Meza

The fall weather is known for bringing a lot of things along aside from just lower temperatures. For instance, a majority of us, aside from residents of Arizona & Hawaii, observe daylight savings time, a time where we set our clocks back an hour & experience shorter day periods. Have you ever thought about how this time change could have effects in your day to day life? For some folks, this seasonal change comes accompanied by a type of depression called seasonal affective disorder, SAD for short. SAD symptoms start in the autumn & continue into the winter months, draining your energy & making you feel more moody than usual [1].

Some of the symptoms that may be experienced due to SAD include: feeling depressed most of the day, wavering interest in routine hobbies & activities, low energy, sleeping problems, appetite changes, agitation, sluggishness, difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness & guilt, & suicidal thoughts [1]. What causes these symptoms? Researchers aren’t quite sure but there is evidence that the reduced level of sunlight disrupts some people’s natural body clocks & leads to their SAD symptoms. Let’s think about plants as an example. Every plant has its own unique set of needs that allow it to thrive. We aren’t too different. Some of us need greater levels of light exposure & when we don’t get this need met, we can mentally wilt much like neglected plants do. The symptoms associated with SAD might not seem too far off from just having a bad day, but they are representative of an unbalanced mental state. It is important for people with SAD to take the proper measures to make the best of their situation.

One of the best ways to offset this imbalance caused by reduced day periods is to supplement yourself with sources of artificial bright light & to make it a habit to spend some time outside when the sun is brightest. Just because the days are shorter doesn’t mean we don’t have access to sunlight, we just have to become aware of how sunlight becomes a sort of limited resource, because we all have access to it but we just have to be more intentional about finding time to soak up some rays. If you live a lifestyle where you aren’t available to go outside when the sun is out, then maybe you would benefit from blocking off an hour every morning for bright light exposure provided by artificial light boxes [2].

Personally, I have found that starting my days with exercise helps me stay grounded & motivated throughout my days. By starting my days a little earlier & with a movement practice, I am giving myself the chance to be up & awake during the sun’s rise & starting my day with a practice that is recognized to naturally produce serotonin in the body. However, it can be tricky to stay motivated & even more so when SAD can manifest as a decreased interest in hobbies. One way that I’ve found to overcome this is to start an accountability group among friends who share a hobby or interest. An example of this would be to start a group amongst your friends who practice yoga. Then, when one of you practices yoga, they can send a check in to the rest of your accountability group. By checking in, the other members of the group are encouraged to also practice & check in. This time can be hard for some of us, but it doesn’t have to be. It helps to surround yourself with an uplifting community that constantly checks in on each other & holds each other accountable.






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