As winter approaches and the days get shorter, many of us will experience the winter blues, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
An estimated 4-6 percent of the population struggles with the disorder, and symptoms typically begin in late fall or early winter, lasting until spring—or, for some, until the beginning of summer. Common symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, disturbances in sleep, appetite and weight, and social withdrawal, typically starting out mild and progressively increasing.
SAD is non-discriminatory, though several studies suggest that women and those with a family history of SAD, clinical depression or bipolar disorder are more susceptible, as is anyone located further from the equator. Young people may also be at a higher risk than older adults. It’s normal to feel down every now and then, but it’s important to know when to seek professional help. Feeling melancholy for days, not being able to tend to normal responsibilities, having suicidal thoughts or behaviors, social withdrawal, and substance abuse are reasons to seek treatment. A combination of light therapy, medications and psychotherapy are typically prescribed.
Here are six home remedies to help combat SAD:
1. Exercise regularly. Numerous studies show that regular exercise and other forms of physical activity ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.
2. Go outside regularly. Take long walks, even on cold days. Natural light is helpful.
3. Make your environment brighter. Keep blinds open and, whenever possible, sit close to bright windows.
4. Reduce alcohol intake. Although the immediate effects of alcohol may be mood enhancing, alcohol is a depressant and can do more harm than good.
5. Get enough sleep. Getting seven or eight hours each night helps to regulate mood, keeps us energized and helps with our concentration and memory.
6. Socialize more. We feel better when we’re around other people. Make regular social plans in advance, before symptoms worsen.