Finding the Light in Your Life: Tips for Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder



Guest Post: By Kimberly Hayes http://publichealthalert.info/


If you experience depression as summer gives way to fall and winter, you may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression connected to changes in season. Loss of sunlight, in particular, can be difficult for some people to cope with, causing an oppressive loss of energy and motivation, and a tendency toward moodiness. Sometimes, therapy or medical intervention is needed; other times, there are things you can do to start feeling better. It is very important to focus on the problem and accept it as a legitimate mental/emotional condition that requires action. Here are a few tips that can help you deal with the problem.


Lifestyle Changes

Sometimes, altering lifestyle habits can help mitigate the debilitating depression that SAD can cause. Doing things differently and changing up daily routines can give you a fresh perspective on life. If you’re a busy person who spends a lot of time indoors during the fall and winter months, look for ways to get outside more often. It may be cold, but exposure to sunlight and the vitamin D it confers can have a healing effect. When indoors, keep the blinds open and other obstructions away from the windows to maximize natural light. If you’re stuck indoors eight to 10 hours a day, try to find ways to work close to a window for a few hours each day.


Combining exercise with sunlight can go a long way toward improving your mood if you suffer from SAD. Make an effort to go for a walk during your lunch hour at least a couple of times a week, or just sit and meditate on a park bench in a sunny spot. Don’t be discouraged if it’s an overcast day, as even minimal light can have a positive impact.

SAD sufferers often feel better after exercising outdoors first thing in the morning because it activates happiness-inducing endorphins in the brain in addition to getting you out in the morning light. Jogging after work or working out at the gym is also a good idea. If you can’t get to the gym, consider setting up your own private workout space at home. Just make sure that you keep the space clean so you don’t ruin your workout with the stress caused by clutter.


Light Therapy

Exposure to light is a commonly used therapy among people with SAD. Usually known as phototherapy, the patient sits a few feet from a lightbox after getting out of bed in the morning, which mimics natural light. Phototherapy is often successful because it produces an elevation in brain chemicals associated with mood. There isn’t a great deal of research concerning light therapy, but it generally starts to work after a few days. If you seek this form of therapy, consult with a doctor to ensure you’re using the lightbox correctly.


Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is often successful at training patients to reorder, or re-channel, their thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches the individual to identify negative thoughts and behaviors that exacerbate the problem. CBT can also arm you with techniques for reducing negative coping behaviors and for managing stress.


Connecting Mind and Body

Making a mind-body connection is often the most reliable means of overcoming the symptoms of SAD. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including meditation, music or art therapy, and imagery therapy, or through relaxation exercises like tai chi or yoga. Yoga is a popular and often effective way to alleviate stress, enhance relaxation, and overcome the symptoms of SAD. The best part: You only need a yoga mat to get started.

Seasonal-affective disorder can be an emotionally crippling problem. Medical intervention is sometimes indicated, but there are plenty of strategies that can help the sufferer get the problem under control without disrupting work or your personal responsibilities.

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