What is seasonal depression and how to deal with it?
Article on the topic of seasonal depression. Autumn depression, winter depression, summer depression and spring depression. Symptoms and treatment of seasonal depression. Help from a psychologist.
Life slows down in the winter. The days get shorter, light becomes scarce, and we sit in front of the TV, hiding under a blanket to keep warm. But how do we know when a seasonal slump is a more serious problem?
Seasonal affective disorder is a category of depression that occurs during certain seasons of the year. Most people notice symptoms of seasonal depression beginning in the fall and worsening in the winter months, but some people experience spring and summer depression as well. Let’s look at some common questions you may have about this disorder.
Symptoms of seasonal depression
The symptoms of seasonal depression are the same as those of normal depression. They may include depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, loss of enjoyment of activities you once loved, and even thoughts of death or suicide.
People with seasonal depression may also notice the following unique symptoms:
- Heaviness in the arms and legs
- Frequent sleeping
- Carbohydrate cravings/weight gain
- Relationship problems
Is seasonal depression a mild version of depression?
No, although this is a common misconception. Seasonal depression is a type of depression that is just a fancy word for a more specific type or subtype.
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People with seasonal affective disorder experience symptoms at certain times of the year. As the seasons change, their depression goes into remission. If you notice this change occurring several times over a two-year period, you may qualify for this diagnosis.
What causes seasonal depression?
Researchers have yet to uncover the specific cause of seasonal depression. However, we do know several factors that cause it. Reduced sunlight in the winter can throw your biological clock out of whack and lower your serotonin (the chemical in your brain that regulates your mood) and melatonin (the chemical that regulates sleep and mood) levels.
If you are a young girl, you have an increased risk of developing seasonal depression. People who live farther from the equator or have a family history of depression also experience symptoms more often.
How will I know when to see a doctor?
Of course, everyone has days in the winter when they feel lethargic or unmotivated. But if your symptoms are causing disruptions in your life, don’t hesitate to see a professional.
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If your symptoms have been occurring for several days, you notice major changes in your sleep or eating habits, you lose your temper socially or activities that normally boost your mood aren’t working, it’s time to pick up the phone. Get help immediately if you are using alcohol to treat your symptoms or are having suicidal thoughts.
What treatments can help
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for any mental health problem. Here are some treatment options for seasonal depression:
- Antidepressants have proven effective for people with seasonal depression, especially those with severe symptoms. Medication requires patience because it may take several weeks before you begin to feel improvement. It is also important not to stop taking medication if you feel better. Be sure to consult with your doctor before changing your dosage, and let him or her know if you experience any side effects.
- Psychotherapy can be an invaluable option for people with seasonal depression. A psychotherapist can help you identify patterns of negative thinking and behavior that affect depression, learn positive ways to cope with symptoms, and develop relaxation techniques to help you recover lost energy.
- Light Therapy – Phototherapy involves exposure to light through a special box or lamp. This device produces effects similar to natural light, causing chemicals in your brain to help regulate your mood. This treatment has proven effective, especially for those experiencing the winter version of depression. Don’t buy impulse buys online, as it’s important to consult your doctor first.
How can I help myself?
In addition to seeking help from your doctor, there are lifestyle changes that can improve your symptoms and boost your mood. You can go outside more often, get plenty of sunshine, exercise, avoid drugs and alcohol, get enough sleep and do relaxation exercises. Planning a healthier lifestyle is never a bad idea.
Seeking help is a sign of strength and moving toward a better version of yourself. Think about how you can start managing your seasonal affective disorder today and lead a healthier lifestyle any time of year.
How to beat fall depression: psychologist tips
Tip 1: Get some fresh air movement
One of the causes of autumn moping is the lack of light: the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer. Together with sunlight leaves us happy hormone serotonin. The body needs enough daylight to produce this hormone.
And even the brightest lamps will not replace the sun, so go outdoors as often as possible. Half an hour is the minimum that should be spent outside the house. And preferably it should not be a brisk run to the bus stop, but an easy leisurely walk.
Tip 2: A splash of color
An effective cure for autumnal moping is colors! Colors can have a big effect on our mood. Radiant yellow and bright orange uplift, green calms, red revives and warms the soul, and purple wraps you in mystery.
Add your favorite color to the interior: paste new wallpaper or at least buy decorative pillows. A color that is to your liking will bring back good spirits and bring joy.
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Put a beautiful box of oranges in a prominent place: the bright color and beautiful aroma will remind of a warm summer and decorate the house.
Tip #3: Caring for your body
When it’s cold and damp outside, you can’t forget to take care of your body, especially your skin and hair. They are the first to suffer from harsh weather conditions and dry indoor air.
Replace gel with shower cream, actively use face masks, nourishing creams for hands and feet, moisturizing conditioners and oil masks for hair. With regular care, your skin and hair will stay healthy.
To lift your spirits, set up a home spa. Put candles in the bathroom, light an aroma lamp, add a few drops of essential oil in the water, turn on your favorite music and enjoy. Leaves the fall blues behind!
Tip #4: Eat Right
In order to support your body, eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible. Don’t forget carbohydrates, the main supplier of energy, so necessary in the fight against autumn moping. Only choose complex carbohydrates like cereals, legumes, and vegetables. Fast carbohydrates – flour, sweets – will turn into extra pounds.
Whole grains and dairy products, bananas, dried fruits contribute to the production of happiness hormones. Also, you should not forget about fish: it stimulates cellular metabolism and gives a strong energy boost.
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To warm you up from the inside out, add spicy, fragrant spices to your dishes: figs, chilies, cardamom, and cinnamon. Not only will they enrich the flavor of the food, but they will also ease digestion.
Tip 5: Music
When it’s gloomy and cold outside, put on your favorite track. When we are sad, we need pleasant melodies that warm the soul.
Music is a medicine and a stimulant for good mood. After a hard day’s work, take a shower, lie down on the couch, put in your headphones and turn on your favorite playlist and close your eyes. In half an hour to an hour you will feel a burst of energy and your moping will dissolve without a trace.
Tip 6: Contrast Showers
A contrast shower is a shower in which the temperature of the water changes from hot to cold and back again. Of course, on a dank autumn day it’s hard to force yourself to get out of a warm bed and give yourself an invigorating hot-cold shower, so this procedure is better left for the morning. A contrast shower will energize you for a whole day, but for the evening it’s better to take a soothing soak in warm water with bubble bath.
A contrast shower stimulates circulation and speeds up the metabolism. Start with warm water, then gradually switch to cold water. The change in temperature is good for your hands and feet, which should be watered first.
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A big advantage of contrast showers is that they are hardening. You’ll forget about colds, and your skin will smooth out and glow with a blush.
Tip 7: Going out in public
Being constantly confined within four walls and a lack of communication will not make anyone happy. So challenge your autumn blues: Go out and have a fun party!
Or go with your best friends to a movie theater, restaurant, shopping or bowling center. The more entertaining places you visit, the better your mood will be. What about a new hobby? Salsa dancing, learning a foreign language and pilates: pick whatever interests you.
Tired of your hometown? This weekend take a trip at least to a neighboring area. Pre-mark out places of interest, book a hotel or a cozy hostel, buy bus tickets and go! For a new experience!
Tip 8: Chocolate
Good news for those with a sweet tooth: the lack of the happy hormone serotonin can be remedied not only by sunshine, but also by chocolate.
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Alas, chocolate is fast carbohydrates and fats, so those on a diet need to be careful. It is better to choose a bitter chocolate and eat a small piece in the morning. And your figure will be safe!
Tip 9: Hugs
Hugs are a cure for depression and loneliness. You don’t need a special reason to hug. Body contact relieves stress, strengthens the immune system and the psyche.
Hugging promotes the release of endorphin and increases self-confidence. It’s amazing: brief contact with a loved one provides a range of positive physical and mental changes. People who hug are often healthier, relaxed, happy and friendly.
Tip 10: Dreams of Summer
And lastly, another powerful remedy to combat fall moping: dreaming about next summer. Close your eyes and picture in your head pleasant pictures: warm weather, beach, gentle sea, the sound of the surf, a glass of cocktail, palm trees …
It doesn’t hurt to plan a vacation in advance: choose a place, a hotel, an excursion program, read reviews. The time will fly by quickly and you won’t notice how you’ll find yourself on the beach of your autumn fantasies!
Hi! I am the founder and also the psychologist of the Discovery Center. With us you will change your life – just ask for help!
Spring moping: how to beat depression
After the long winter cold and dreary gray weather, spring has finally come to us – a happy time of year. The streets of cities are filled with sunlight, the palette of colors of nature is getting brighter every day. But the mood of many, unfortunately, is zero. And seasonal moping is to blame. Why it comes and how to fight it?
Not only nature blooms and transforms in the spring, changes also occur in the human body. It readjusts, trying to adapt to new conditions, hormonal changes, increases serotonin levels in the blood.
If the serotonin level is normal, a person feels active, energetic, optimistic and happy every day. Serotonin is called the “hormone of happiness” for a reason! If it is not enough, the pleasure of life is not received, everything seems gray and gloomy, the change of seasons does not make you happy, but on the contrary, causes anxiety, is sharply felt uncertainty about the future.
It would seem that the way out is obvious – walk more outside, breathe fresh air, and you will soon feel a beautiful change in life. But it’s not that simple, spring moping and seasonal depression are always caused not by a single reason, but by a whole complex.
Life in gray: why does seasonal moping occur?
Inexplicable feelings of anxiety, bad moods, feelings of inferiority and even suicidal thoughts – all this is characteristic of a depressed state. It is spring that makes a person feel these symptoms more acutely.
As spring comes into its own, a person becomes more active, and this happens against the background of seasonal avitaminosis. Lack of vitaminized menu, typical for the cold season, leads to weakening of the immune system and malfunctions in the normal operation of the body, the threshold of sensitivity to stress is reduced and nervous tension increases. Should we be surprised by gloomy thoughts and loss of energy?
How to treat a bad mood?
Bad moods and spring moping are not equal to depression. It is a defensive reaction of our psyche, the trigger that makes people wake up and adjust their behavior to the reality around them. Nature has thought of everything: change yourself and the world will change itself! So what can we do for our health? And how do we distinguish depression from spring moping?
Depression in the crosshairs
Depression can only be diagnosed by an experienced professional, but even laypersons can recognize its symptoms. Depression is long-lasting; it does not go away in a few hours or a couple of days, but lasts for months and sometimes even years. A person who is affected by it loses interest in life, feels depressed, cannot experience pleasure and joy, and low self-esteem becomes his constant companion. In addition, insomnia occurs, or conversely, increased sleepiness, an increased appetite or it disappears altogether, it becomes impossible to concentrate on things, and simple tasks seem to be a real feat.
If you are feeling unwell and have noticed one or more of these symptoms, seek help from a specialist. An experienced psychotherapist will give you back the joys of life. In all other cases it will help to fight with moping simple but effective methods.
How to defeat spring moping: a little know-how
- Add light into your life!
The daily walk in the fresh air under a cascade of sunlight is a must for the human body. Its beneficial effects can be noticed after only 30 minutes of being outdoors: the mood improves, and the colors of nature delight all the more.
They say motion is life. And it is true! The more we move, the better our body feels. Physical activity keeps it toned, improves metabolism and strengthens immunity. Exercise!
Your day should not be divided into two parts – work and sleep. Between these two concepts should be personal time for your favorite activity – reading books, listening to music, learning foreign languages or sewing clothes. If you are woefully short of time, try the technique of time-management. Many people have already felt the benefits of this system, correctly planned day is always fruitful and more full of interesting events.
- Variety your diet with new dishes
With the first rays of spring, the body feels an acute shortage of vitamins. In order to replenish the lack of vitamins, fill up on seasonal fruits and vegetables. Let them be bright and colorful, because each food group has its own list of vitamins and nutrients.
- Rest and relax.
Healthy sleep at least 7-8 hours a day and a few hours of rest during the day will relieve excessive psychological stress on the human body and increase resistance to stress.
Olga Razvolgina, a certified specialist in the field of psychological counseling, emotional-cognitive psychotherapy, psychodrama and Gestalt therapy, works in the psychological center “Kvartet”.
The decline in strength in the spring is due to two main reasons. There is nothing we can do about the first one: our climate gives too little sunlight in winter, so our body doesn’t produce for 4-5 months enough of the necessary substances for vigor.
Alas, solariums do more harm than good. But we can take advantage of the experience of Londoners, who also have a gloomy winter. They catch every ray of sunshine – they walk outside their offices, sit on benches and eat their lunches. Get out in the sunshine as often as you can!
Next, we should recognize that springtime asthenia (loss of energy) is a natural phenomenon.
Try not to push yourself – let it be impossible to relax at work, give yourself a break in sports or household chores. Diets with restrictions are especially harmful.
It is possible and necessary to regain the joy of life – baths with pleasant additives, sleep as much as you like, don’t deny yourself a banana and a chocolate bar, many people are helped by pleasant aromas – orange, for example.
Joseph Goldberg, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry and member of the American Psychiatric Association
Depression can make you feel helpless. But along with therapy and the use of doctor-recommended medications, there’s a lot you can do for yourself.
Change your behavior to feel better. To do this, change your mindset, live a healthy lifestyle and become more active.
Ian Cook, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry
If you have depression, it is important not to concentrate on your condition, but to live life to the fullest, to do something new every day. You can go to a museum, read a book on a park bench, start learning a foreign language or volunteer at a charity. When we set out to do something new and interesting, there are chemical changes in the body. Production of dopamine, the hormone of pleasure and enjoyment, increases.