Seasonal Sadness: Identifying and Treating SAD
It’s that time of year when sunshine may be hard to come by, when you wake up in the dark and leave work when it’s dark. When it’s often too cold to go outside for an after-dinner walk with the family dog. It’s easy to feel claustrophobic. You may begin planning next summer’s vacation just so you can look at photos of the beach and people enjoying being out in the sun.
For people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), winter is a time of unrelieved sadness and misery. Depression becomes a fact of life, and just getting out of bed in the morning becomes a source of anguish. SAD can be a debilitating condition, one that’s sometimes difficult to diagnose, though awareness of the condition among healthcare professionals has grown considerably. And there are a number of strategies that provide effective treatment. Midnight News offers these resources.
Physicians and mental health professionals today do thorough physical examinations and psychological screenings to determine whether a depressed individual is suffering from SAD to rule out other conditions that may exhibit similar symptoms. In some cases, depression is a symptom of some physical problem, such as a thyroid gland that’s functioning improperly. If SAD is the diagnosis, treatment may involve psychotherapy, supplemental light therapy, or medication.
Because SAD is tied to a lack of exposure to natural light, light treatment is often effective since it involves exposure to a light box, which simulates sunlight and sets off a reaction in the brain that affects mood. In many cases, patients turn on a light box when they wake up in the morning. It’s an effective treatment therapy, though it can take several days before it takes effect. Many people purchase a light box to use at work, especially if they’re in an office that gets no sunlight.
Self-care is always an important strategy for maintaining a healthy outlook and a strong sense of well-being. There are many self-care strategies that are helpful in SAD cases. Meditation can be a very effective self-care approach because it elevates mood. It’s a mental discipline that can be practiced anywhere, but for optimal results, consider setting up a meditation space at home that’s quiet and facilitates focus and concentration. Meditation helps make a mind-body connection.
Arrange your meditation space so that it optimizes natural light and incorporates other natural elements, such as green houseplants and photos or artwork portraying natural scenery. Your aim in setting up a meditation space should be to avoid any mental distractions. Massage therapy is another effective self-care approach that improves your outlook through relaxation, helping you overcome tension that can contribute to stress and anxiety.
SAD and Substance Abuse
SAD can significantly exacerbate substance use issues, as individuals often turn to substances as a coping mechanism for the depressive symptoms associated with this disorder. The diminished light and shorter days of winter can lead to increased feelings of sadness, lethargy, and isolation, potentially triggering or intensifying substance use as a form of self-medication. Recognizing this pattern is a crucial first step, and it might be time to investigate the best treatment options available to you.
When exploring treatment centers, it’s essential to evaluate them based on several key factors: the accommodations they offer, their accreditation status, the variety of treatment modalities they provide, their location, and client reviews. Each of these elements plays a significant role in ensuring that the treatment center aligns with your specific needs and preferences, thereby enhancing the likelihood of a successful recovery journey tailored to your unique situation.
There are several forms of psychotherapy that often work with patients suffering from SAD. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most successful. It prepares the patient to identify and recognize behavioral responses that play into the condition and make you feel worse. The idea is to show you how to alter the way you respond to a lack of sunlight and its impact on your mood. It also teaches patients avoidance behavior and includes activities designed to mitigate the condition. CBT is also an effective way to reduce stress.
There are several things a SAD sufferer can do at home to improve mood and restore motivation. For example, declutter and maximize natural light by keeping tree branches trimmed and removing anything that’s blocking windows. To safely remove larger branches, vet local tree services to find a contractor with the experience and know-how to complete the job. Always get an up-front estimate and check to make sure there aren’t any hidden costs tacked on.
Introducing indoor plants into your home can be a therapeutic and visually appealing way to combat SAD. Plants not only enhance the aesthetic of your living space but also promote a sense of well-being and connection to nature, which is particularly beneficial during the shorter, darker days of winter. One excellent option is the Hoya Sunrise, a beautiful plant known for its vibrant, sun-kissed leaves.
The Hoya Sunrise is not only a mood booster but also relatively low maintenance, making it suitable for those new to indoor gardening. For those seeking to care for this plant, there are numerous free online resources providing comprehensive care tips, from watering schedules to optimal lighting conditions. These guides ensure that even beginners can enjoy the therapeutic benefits of indoor gardening and create a more serene, plant-filled environment in their homes.
Make a point of getting outside every day by going for a walk at least once a day (try walking at lunchtime during the workday). Exercise, which activates “feel-good” endorphins in the brain, can also relieve depression and other SAD symptoms.
It’s estimated that SAD affects 10 million Americans, while another 10 million may experience milder symptoms. Diagnosis, however, is important for successful treatment therapy. There are also ways to alleviate your suffering by making changes at home and in your daily habits.
Elijah Dawson :