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Treating Seasonal Depression


Last week I wrote our first Employee Wellness blog about Seasonal Depression. We looked at the causes and symptoms of this disease. I have heard from a few team members this week that have had or are dealing with this issue. I am certain there are many more who are silently suffering from this as we enter this winter season.

What causes SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression.

Less sunlight and shorter days are thought to be linked to a chemical change in the brain and may be part of the cause of SAD. Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, also has been linked to SAD. The body naturally makes more melatonin when it's dark. So, when the days are shorter and darker, more melatonin is made.

I wanted to devote the majority of this article to some to treatment options for seasonal depression. If these tips are not useful to you at the moment, I hope you will share these with a patient, friend or family member who might be in need.

I have two lists of treatment options for you, one more clinical and one list of things you can be doing daily that can make a real difference:

  • Exposure to sunlight. Spending time outside or near a window can help relieve symptoms.

  • Light therapy. If increasing sunlight is not possible, exposure to a special light for a specific amount of time each day may help.

  • Psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral or interpersonal therapy helps change the distorted views you may have of yourself and the environment around you. It can help you improve interpersonal relationship skills, and identify things that cause you stress as well as how to manage them.

  • Antidepressants. These prescription medicines can help correct the chemical imbalance that may lead to SAD.

Things you can do:

  • Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.

  • Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.

  • Normalize sleep patterns. Schedule reliable times to wake up and go to bed each day. Especially for fall-winter-onset SAD, reduce or eliminate napping and oversleeping.

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