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Seasonal Depression: It's All in Your Head

Updated on July 27, 2017
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Cindy has been a Substance Abuse/Mental Health case manager since 2012 and believes that a healthy mind is a happy mind.

Here's How You Can Beat The Blues

What is S.A.D. and why do so you get it?

Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in the winter, when the days become shorter, and you spend less time in the sun.

Sunlight helps your body produce higher levels of serotonin. Serotonin is the "feel good" chemical in your brain that that is key in influencing your mood. Production of serotonin is turned on in the morning upon exposure to light. This is why you feel more awake during the day and get tired and sleepy when the sun goes down. The lack of sunlight causes a drop in the levels of serotonin in your brain, making you feel listless, tired and depressed. This is what causes you to get the "winter doldrums" at this time of year and not others.

How is S.A.D. treated?

There are ways to ease depression, no matter what time of the year.

Some people turn to medical specialists while others opt not to treat it at all, feeling instead that if they just bear the pain for a while, it will go away.

There are safe treatments-prescription and non-prescription- as well as lifestyle changes that can boost your serotonin levels and make you feel better, now, and even all year round!

I Believe I'm Experiencing Depression. Now What?

The reality is that if you are experiencing depression, there is something going on in your world that you are unhappy with.

You may not even be fully aware of where your sadness is coming from. The good news is, there's always room for improvement.

When you nurture yourself with a daily dose of healthy living, you are already doing something to ease depression. Natural lifestyle changes, sometimes coupled with therapy, can go far in helping you to feel better.

For more troublesome depression, medications-whether natural or prescribed-can also help. If you find that your everyday life is being adversely affected, you should see a professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treatments may include:

Therapy

Sometimes talking about your depression can help you to understand and deal with it in a healthier way. It may even help discover underlying issues that are making your depression worse.

Prescription medications

Antidepressants can help regulate the chemicals in your brain that are responsible for depression, but are usually prescribed in more severe cases.

Lifestyle changes

Learning how to live a healthier, more wholesome life should always be your number one priority-just more so if you are dealing with depression.

Lifestyle changes can bring a lot of relief:

Spend more time outdoors

The sun helps boost serotonin levels (which controls feelings of well-being) in your brain.

Eating better

Diet has a big effect on your mood. A balanced diet ensures that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins-especially B vitamins and B12 in particular-in your diet. Having deficient levels of B vitamins, vitamin C and many minerals adds can add to the problem.

Exercise

Getting active boosts the levels of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are our own natural "feel good" medicine.

Feed The Soul

Start your day with a reading from your favorite motivation literature. This sets the mood for the day. Any time you're feeling frazzled, stop and allow yourself a few minutes of mindfullness or meditation. Even taking 5 minutes out of a hectic day to recoup and refocus will give you peace of mind.

Herbal Remedies Can Be Quite Effective:

The following herbal suppliments are all sold over the counter in drugstores and health food stores nationwide. The best way to decide which one is going to work the best for you, is to start one suppliment at a time. Start at a low dose and work your way up as directed by the label.

Remember that herbal supplements are still medicine, there can be unexpected side effects. Always check with your doctor before adding these to your diet:

Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can't make omega-3s on their own, so we must obtain them through our diet. Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids. In countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in North American. Postpartum depression is also less common.

SAM-e

  • Pronounced "sammy", SAM-e is short for S-adenosyl-L-methionine. It's a chemical that's found naturally in the human body and is believed to increase levels of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.

Folic Acid

  • Folic acid, also called folate, is a B vitamin that is often deficient in people who are depressed. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, fruit, beans, and fortified grains. It's one of the most common vitamin deficiencies because of poor diet but also because chronic conditions and various medications such as aspirin and birth control pills can also lead to deficiency.

St. Johns Wort

  • This is probably one of the most discussed and available herbs around. It has nutrient value that is beneficial to the nerves and has provided a gentle alternative to Prozac as an antidepressant. *( St. Johns Wort can cause anxiety, as it increases levels of dopamine in the brain, so it is best to avoid it if there is recurring anxiety).

Licorice Root

  • This herb tends to replenish the adrenals, allowing a more relaxed state. This herb should not be used for those with hypertension or high blood pressure.

Passion Flower

  • Passion Flower is another calmative for the nerves, reducing anxiety and high blood pressure while encouraging sleep.

Valerian Root

  • This herb assists with all types of mood problems, as well as nervous tension, anxiety, stress and insomnia.

Scullcap

  • Scullcap is another adrenal herb, but also has been very effective for nerves, high blood pressure, worry, restlessness and emotional conflict.


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