Autumn is truly in full effect with the end of daylight savings time reminding us of the dark winter months ahead. But the start of the cold weather is also synonymous with seasonal depression for a large number of people. Indeed, many persons suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and envision the next 4 months as a true nightmare. Generally triggered by poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, as well as a lack of light, this disorder can affect anybody.
SAD is not a myth and should be taken seriously, as it affects many people across the country, not just in Quebec. It is a mood disorder fueled by chronic fatigue that is in itself a symptom of an imbalance in your health. Thankfully, there are natural remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms of this affliction.
Seasonal depression is very similar to clinical depression. Indeed, its symptoms are virtually the same but what differentiates the two, is that in order to have a clear diagnosis of seasonal depression, these symptoms must be felt for at least two consecutive winters. Normally, thes effects of seasonal depression start at the beginning of October and disappear completely around the month of April.
In terms of symptoms more specifically, those affected will tend to isolate themselves, have a significant decrease in energy and will experience a lot of anxiety and irritability. Furthermore, those affected will tend to gain weight and suffer from hypersomnia (excessive tiredness). In general, people with seasonal depression will also have a depressive mood throughout the day, which in extreme cases, can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Tips to reduce the effects of seasonal depression
1. Change your diet
With the cold weather on its way, our lifestyle will change, and this affects our diet in many cases. In the summer, all the markets are accessible: a great amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in season are offered to us, so it is easier to include them in our diet. However, when the cold weather arrives, we tend to become more sedentary and thus quietly neglect our nutrition by prioritizing refined and processed products. By adopting a healthier diet during this difficult time, you help your body to respond better to this lack of light.
Here are some key nutrients to adopt in order to help you regain your spirits:
- Omega 3s: These contribute to the increase in production of serotonin. Omega 3 is responsible for mood management and is associated with a general state of happiness. You can find omega-3 in oily fish, linseed and chia seeds, walnuts, etc.
- B Vitamins: several studies suggest that people with vitamin B2, B6, B9 and B12 deficiencies often have symptoms of depression. This vitamin is found in many foods such as: green vegetables, lentils, seeds, brewer’s yeast, wheat germs, oranges, etc. Do some research on recipes to help include them more often in your diet.
- Avoid refined and processed products during this time of the year. Of course, it is impossible to eliminate them completely but it is important to watch your consumption. It may tempt you to consume more refined and packaged foods during winter time since these often represent quick and uncomplicated meals, but remember that they will not better your symptoms. Make a habit of meal prepping that will serve as pre-prepared meals for the week.
2. Get moving!
There is no point in trying to stick to an elaborate Olympian training plan, but adding simple physical activity to your routine will reduce your sedentary level. Physical activity allows the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters associated with feelings of well-being and pleasure. For example, if you normally take the bus to the metro, why not go for a walk and enjoy the fresh air instead? In addition, if your physical activities are done outside, you will enjoy the sun’s vitamin D and this is excellent for your mood!
Keep in mind that seasonal depression is largely caused by lack of light during this time of year. Try to make the most of the sun as much as you can. Make sure to dress warmly and enjoy the beautiful winter of Quebec; you will feel much better after.
3. Surround yourself with loved ones
As we all know, emotional and social bonds are essential to happiness. With the winter season coming, many tend to lock themselves indoors and avoid social contact. Keep in mind that it is important for you, and especially during this time of the year, to continue to be social as this allows you to relieve pressure and stress.
4. Adopt a fixed sleep schedule
Figure out the right amount of hours of sleep that are necessary for you, and try to respect it. One trick could be to establish a sleep routine that you repeat every night so that your body gets used to it, which will help reduce your sleep problems. When a person suffers from seasonal depression, taking naps may seem like an option to get through their day. But by getting your body to sleep for a long part of the day, it can actually exacerbate your seasonal depression by making you feel groggy and will not improve your symptoms.