Do you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder?
When September arrives, the seasons change, daylight becomes shorter, and darkness arrives early. Living in the North, we may wake up in the dark, trudge off to work, and arrive home in the dark. During this time, a great number of people fall into a predictable set of symptoms.
They slow down.
They have a tough time waking up in the morning.
They can’t fall asleep at night.
Their energy levels decrease, and a full-on fatigue can take hold.
Thinking and concentrating suffer.
Feelings of sadness, even despair, take center stage.
These experiences are known as Major Depressive Disorder with a Seasonal Onset – otherwise more informally known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD symptoms include many of the same symptoms as major depression. The difference though, is that these symptoms resolve each spring and tend to occur again in late fall. SAD negatively impacts productivity at work, school and home – and even in social relationships.
One neurobiological cause is related to melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland. This hormone, which can affect sleep patterns and mood, is produced at increased levels in the dark. individuals who have SAD appear to have higher levels of melatonin than those who do not experience SAD.
Furthermore, Melatonin regulates our circadian rhythm, also known as our “biological clock”, and when overproduction occurs in the darker months, children and adults “feel out of sorts.”
Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Ask your doctor – Many illnesses can look like SAD (hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, anemia, etc.) Make sure you aren’t struggling with another treatable medical condition.
- Learn about your circadian rhythm – This is the internal biochemical cycle we all have that regulates our body with respect to sleeping, feeding and well-being. Circadian rhythms are greatly affected by sunlight. Individuals with SAD have an ultra-sensitive body clock that gets thrown off when exposed to less sunlight. To help reset your body clock, sunshine or artificial light are used.
- Get more sun – When Smithereens experience an inversion in the weather, we can head up to the ski hill, above the clouds, and get some much needed Vitamin D. Consider buying an artificial light for Light Therapy if you can’t get natural sunshine.
- Aromatherapy – Invite essential oils or candles into your space to boost mood. Studies show peppermint, lemon, bergamot and cinnamon increase concentration and lift mood.
- Keep a set sleep schedule – Keeping a healthy sleep schedule will reduce aspects of SAD. Make it standard practice NOT to sleep in too much, nap too much or go to bed too early.
- Eat Healthy Foods – SAD sufferers tend to crave sweets and starches, so be mindful to keep protein in your diet as a balance.
- Counselling – check in with a Mental Health Professional to work on solutions to ease the “Season of Sad”.
- Psychopharmacology – For some individuals, using antidepressant during seasonal patterns helps alleviate depressive symptoms. Consult with your doctor and ask if they understand or specialize in mood disorders for the best results.
For more information and tips about SAD, go to the The Canadian Mental Health Association website to learn more about what it is and what you can do to help alleviate its symptoms.
There is light at the end of the tunnel….