Looking for tips for treatment for seasonal affective disorder? These are the strategies I’ll be testing out this year.
As if momlife isn’t hard enough, try adding seasonal affective disorder (SAD) to the mix, but this year I have a plan for treatment for seasonal affective disorder. (Quick note that some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase.)
Before we go any further, let me be clear that I am in no way a doctor or medical professional. I’m a mom who has dealt with this and other forms of anxiety and depression for a long long time. This year I’m finally going to be implementing some treatment for seasonal affective disorder instead of just trying to power through (which never works), and these are the things that according to my personal research (aka Dr. Google) are best.
Please seek help from a professional if you need help. (I personally love BetterHelp if you have a hard time finding babysitters so you can get to therapy. Sessions are with real licensed therapists, virtual and you can even text with someone!)
What is seasonal affective disorder?
It’s a cyclical form of depression that comes and goes around the same times each year. When most people think of seasonal affective disorder, it’s occurring during the winter, but summer depression is surprisingly common.
Though in this article, I’m focusing on winter since that’s what impacts me.
What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?
According to WebMD, symptoms usually consist of:
- Feeling sluggish, less energy, more fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Increased desire to be alone and need for more sleep
Who is at risk of seasonal affective disorder?
While anyone can be impacted by seasonal affective disorder, women are actually 4 times more likely to be diagnosed with it! Other risk factors could be trauma or being between the ages of 20-30.
Studies have shown that light therapy is an effective treatment of seasonal affective disorder. Last year I considered getting one, and looking back I SO wish I would.
If you have an early riser like me, then you probably end up spending a good chunk of your day in darkness, typically rising before the sun. Last fall and winter, my twins were going through a phase of waking at 4-freaking-AM every single day. It was brutal.
A light lamp might not have helped my sleep deprivation, but I think it would have eased some of the worst parts of my seasonal affective disorder just a bit.
So this year I made the investment. I now plug it in and spend 20-30 minutes within a few feet of it at a 90ish degree angle so I can see it out of the corner of my eye without staring directly at it. It’s too early to tell if it will work, but it does make me feel like I’m adding something special and needed for myself as part of my morning routine. (This is the one I’m using.)
First, I ensure that I take a regular prenatal vitamin every morning. Before I even drink my coffee I get a full glass of water and drink the entire thing after taking my vitamins. This also ensure I start the day super hydrated, which is key!
But for winter I am adding in a few additional vitamins to my routine. While I try to get as many in my diet as possible, I am also taking additional vitamin supplements too. They are:
Many people are already vitamin D deficient during the sunnier months of the year, but because we spend a lot of time indoors, we aren’t able absorb as much as we need via the sun. So in addition to studies showing it to be a treatment for seasonal affective disorder during the months with less sunlight, it has been shown to help with depression in general.
Magnesium has a ton of benefits including help with PMS symptoms (which seem to exacerbate any depression symptoms I have). Some studies have also shown higher magnesium levels are correlated to higher vitamin D levels, so I figured it might be a great combo with above.
This mix of B vitamins has been shown to help with the overall mood and easing anxiety and depression.
This is ALWAYS a good idea. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is generally they kind of therapy that most experts point to as the best option as treatment of seasonal affective disorder.
Right now I am not in therapy, but I have a therapist on speed dial if the need arises. So it’s a good possibility I will still seek it out, and as I said above, I love BetterHelp. A lot of times it’s hard to get away from the house at a regular time every week. So being able to do virtual therapy that is still effective and with licensed professionals is awesome.
Also a note that medication might be needed for some, and I have used medication in the past. While I try to use natural methods, whatever works is what is best.
Embrace it with Tons of Self-Care
For me, there is something oddly beneficial and good to this cycle of changing moods. While I do want to lessen my symptoms and make it more manageable, it does make me acutely aware of seasonal shifts, signaling internal and emotional shifts.
This year is going to be the first time that although I am seeking some sort of treatment for seasonal affective disorder (even if it’s mostly self-directed), I’m also going to not “fight” it and instead, just surrender to this pattern.
That’s not to say I’m going to just go lay in bed all winter and cry. While at times I might need to have a little pity party, what I’m really planning to do is just be hyper-aware of what’s going on internally.
Instead of pushing all the feelings down, I’m going to just allow them.
This has been a hard-fought and long battle of mine. To learn to actually feel my feelings and not push them down. Stuffing down feelings just leads to MORE depression and anxiety for me. The feelings during depressive periods for me are much stronger than my normal emotions, which for someone who represses emotion is kind of an unexpected good thing. It means I HAVE to feel. That lets me bring up and heal old wounds so I can move on a bit.
I can’t say it is the most fun thing on the planet, but it’s necessary. So I’m just going with it and going to support myself as much as possible with tons of self-care. I also have a super supportive husband who is able to effectively co-parent and corral the kids when I need some alone time.
This self-care also includes a healthy diet and exercise. I go on walks or hikes nearly every day, getting in over 10k steps per day, and most of that is outdoors. Getting outside can be helpful in lessening depression, plus more sunlight is a great treatment of seasonal affective disorder.
There isn’t really a “cure” for seasonal affective disorder, but it is manageable with the right tools. Finding the right treatment for seasonal affective disorder for you is what is most important.
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