Whether you mark the end of summer by the leaves changing colors, the resurgence of pumpkin spice lattes or the autumn equinox, it’s official: fall is here. While some people look forward to the holiday season within reach, others dread the lingering chill in the air because it brings a lack of energy and mood swings.
What most simply call seasonal depression is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Let’s all take a moment to appreciate such an appropriate acronym.
Now you might be wondering, isn’t it too soon to feel SAD? I only feel that way when it’s dark and gloomy in winter. This is not the case for everyone. According to Mayo Clinic, people begin to feel symptoms from fall to winter because the decrease in sunlight can interfere with the body’s circadian rhythm as well as melatonin and serotonin levels. Some people feel symptoms in spring and summer, so the exact cause of this disorder is unknown. Since SAD is a form of depression, they share similar symptoms, which can include:
Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having low energy
Having problems with sleeping
Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to reach out for help. As with other mental health issues, it’s easy to brush off this serious problem as “something everyone goes through”, but if you don’t feel like your normal self for more than a few days, you should speak to a professional. There is no simple cure to stop feeling SAD, so it is important to find a method that works for you before it potentially leads to more severe issues like social withdrawal and problems with school.
That being said, if you only feel SAD for a little while and not days on end, then here are a few tips (note that I am NOT a professional and what works for me may not work for you).
Physical health plays a huge role in your mental health! I wish I could be the type of person who loves working out, but I don’t. I really don’t. However, forcing myself to do something I don’t want to do somehow makes me feel better at the end. There are countless articles explaining how exercising brings up your mood and boosts your energy, so if you’re interested in the actual science, I’d recommend reading some of those. Some of my favorite physical activities are dancing and walking. Trying to make it fun for yourself so that it helps lift your mood (e.g. I get really excited when I finally master a new dance move).
2. Explore the outdoors
Especially now more than ever, in this time when we’re forced to endure hours on end sitting behind a screen for almost all of our daily activities, it’s important to take a moment with Mother Nature. I love going for a walk outside and being able to reconnect with myself and the world. Again, there are endless benefits to spending time outside like getting sunlight and there’s really no downside. One of my favorite things to do is take pictures while I’m on a walk.
3. Eat Healthy
Even though they seem far away, the holidays are coming up. And getting caught up in the holidays usually means going a little heavy on the carbs. However, as tasty as they are, all those delicious treats are not doing our bodies any favors. Since the holidays are the time to indulge, people tend to over do it. In order to really feel the effects of eating healthy, you need to be consistent and the best way to do that is to find a balance. Some people struggle because they see eating healthy as eating bland foods. Slowly incorporating healthy alternatives is the way to avoid that. For example, I started eating frozen grapes as a snack and they’re actually really tasty. They’re also a much better choice than something processed and artificially sweetened.
4.Enjoy people’s company
Really? This is the last one? All my introverts and ambiverts, I feel you. It’s tough being around other people on a regular day and when the holiday season starts, it can also get overwhelming. For me, every time I pushed myself to go to that birthday party when I didn’t want to or even just sat on the couch to watch a movie with my parents, I feel a little better than I would have alone in my room. It’s definitely okay to not be with people all the time, I know that I still turn down going out sometimes so I can stay at home, but make an effort to reach out to friends and family. Social gatherings look a little (okay a lot) different now, either meetings on Zoom and FaceTime calls or meeting in person with masks and social distancing. However you want to do it, talking to others helps boost your mood. Even if you’re doing well, try to check in with friends often. You never know, they might really appreciate you thinking about them.
These are only a few of the techniques you can use when you feel SAD. Every person is different, so you might need to try various methods before finding what works for you. No matter how hard it gets, remember two things: always reach out and that I’m out here believing in you.
By: Mytreyi Sureshkumar