5 Tips for Alleviating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Vitamin D
- Light Boxes
Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD – affects millions of adults that live in temperate zones. Most SAD sufferers are adults and begin experiencing its symptoms in their twenties, and most experience SAD during the wintertime.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of SAD can include lack of energy, craving of carbohydrate-heavy foods, agitation, sluggishness, and weight gain or loss, among many others. However, various strategies exist for helping to limit the impact of SAD on everyday life. Here are five tips for alleviating seasonal affective disorder.
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While vitamin D is principally used in calcium absorption and immune system function, it also plays a pivotal role in brain function. Vitamin D supports the production process of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine – the chemicals that help your brain feel a sense of happiness and vitality. Dosage and frequency may vary according to the individual’s needs, but it’s worth talking about with a physician if you suffer from SAD.
Lightboxes help to simulate sunshine and help suppress excessive production of melatonin, the brain chemical that induces sleepiness. For most people, sitting in front of a lightbox for thirty minutes a day – typically in the morning – can help alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and regulate circadian rhythm, which can be disrupted by SAD.
For particularly egregious SAD, antidepressants – even for a short period of time – can be helpful. A consultation with a primary care physician or psychiatrist is necessary to receive antidepressants, as well as to gain a solid understanding of what is available and what may impact the patient the least in terms of side effects. But if the patient’s seasonal affective disorder is highly debilitating, antidepressants may be worth considering.
Essential oil aromatherapy can have a positive impact on the areas of the brain that control mood and appetite. For example, lavender can assist in relaxation and preparing the body for rest, while bergamot can boost mood and help the brain to “wake up.” For those who love scents and may want to alleviate their SAD without using antidepressants, aromatherapy may be an excellent addition to other methods of managing the symptoms.
Exercise produces endorphins and boosts serotonin production, both of which are two more of the body’s “feel good” chemicals. Exercising outside during daytime is optimal, because of the vitamin D the body produces in response to sunlight; but if the weather is too forbidding, exercising indoors, especially near a lightbox or large window, can be an excellent second choice.
Seasonal affective disorder affects up to six percent of people living in the United States, and its symptoms have a significant impact on the everyday lives of those who have it. But each of these methods can help alleviate its symptoms – and help those living with SAD get back to a happier state of being.