Winter | Depression | 22nd December 2021 | Virtual Wire
THE DARK AND COLD DAYS OF WINTER CAN BRING ALONG A FEELING OF HOPELESSNESS AND DESPAIR. MANY PEOPLE FIND IT DIFFICULT TO KEEP UP WITH THEIR MENTAL HEALTH DURING THIS PERIOD.
Winter Depression also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), not only drains off energy and spirit but also disconnects you from your surroundings, leaving behind a feeling of nothingness. SAD is a type of Depression that gets triggered at the same time every year. The symptoms usually occur during the late fall and get more severe in the darker and colder months of winter before diminishing in the spring or early summer.
Like any other type of depression, it affects your day-to-day functioning, including how you feel and think. The symptoms may vary from mild to severe.
Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day.
Extreme fatigue and lack of energy.
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
Oversleeping and difficulty waking up in the morning.
Intensified craving for foods high in carbohydrates.
Feeling worthless or guilty.
Feeling sluggish or agitated.
Having difficulty concentrating.
Withdrawal from social activities.
Circadian Rhythm- Colder temperatures combined with fewer daylight hours disrupts the body’s Circadian Rhythm or internal clock, which regulates everything from sleeping patterns to mood and appetite.
Serotonin Levels- Serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that regulates mood, gets a boost from vitamin D. The lack of winter sun can cause a drop in the level of serotonin, leading to feelings of depression.
Melatonin Levels- Reduced sunlight leads to overproduction of Melatonin, the chemical that regulates the sleep cycle, making you feel sluggish and sleepy during the winter.
Lifestyle changes and home remedies
Getting More Sunlight- Increase the amount of sunlight that enters your home, take long walks, sit closer to bright windows and soak up the sun. Even on cloudy days, daylight can help you feel better.
Maintaining a Healthy and Balanced diet- Even though your body may crave starch-rich foods, stick to nutritious choices. Staying well hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet with enough vitamins and minerals can give you the required energy.
Exercise Regularly- Any physical activity that gets you off your couch and moving can help lift your mood. Exercising regularly is an excellent way to relieve stress and anxiety and make you feel better about yourself.
Connect with People- You may feel like isolating yourself from everyone during the winter months but it is important to stay connected to your friends and family and maintain your activity levels.
Mind-Body techniques- Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, music or art therapy, spiritual practices help to cope up with SAD and reduce unhealthy thoughts and behaviour.
Treatment for SAD include the following:
Light Therapy- Light therapy, also called Phototherapy is one of the first-line treatments for SAD. It is preferred over antidepressants as it is relatively safe and easy. During this therapy, you sit near a special lightbox, that mimics the natural outdoor light and causes a change in the brain chemicals linked to mood. It is most effective when done early in morning, right after you wake up. Many people respond to light therapy within a few days and usually continue through the winter to prevent relapse.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy- It is a type of talk therapy, where a therapist works with you to identify and challenge specific thought patterns and behavioural responses. The goal is to gain a better understanding of yourself and develop strategies to replace negative avoidance behaviour with activities that create pleasure and confidence.
Antidepressants-Antidepressants can be useful if your symptoms are severe. They increase the level of serotonin in your brain thereby improving your mood. Antidepressants can prevent episodes when taken at the start of winter before the symptoms appear and continued until spring.