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Seasonal Affective Disorder

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What Is It & How Can We Navigate the Changing Seasons?

As we transition from fall into winter, our bodies’ often react to seasonal changes, affecting the way we live our lives. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder, most commonly known as seasonal depression, that is triggered by a change in climate or seasons at the same time each year. 

“Seasonal Affective Disorder can be detrimental to our daily routine,” said Dr. Raafia Muhammad, Clinical Division Chief at ADHD Online. “It can affect how we sleep, how we eat, and even how we interact with one another. People across the country – not just those in the four-season states –experience one or more of seasonal affective disorder’s many symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, weight loss, and gain, depression, fatigue, social withdrawal, hopelessness, and lack of energy. The sooner you recognize the symptoms, the quicker you will be able to seek treatment or find ways to adjust to the changing seasons.”  

Here are some tips to get through this season:  

  • First, it’s important to recognize that everyone feels down at some point, and that is completely okay. It’s normal. But, when you start to feel like you can’t find a silver lining anywhere, and the usual activities that used to make you happy on your bad days are now filling you with hopelessness and guilt, it’s time to seek a doctor. “We know that everyone will have off days, but when your thoughts start to turn dark, and you are contemplating self-harm, it’s time to get help,” said Dr. Muhammad. 
  • Commit to your best form of self-care. This can be done through a workout, like running, lifting weights, or even dancing. Then, treat yourself to an at-home spa day filled with face masks and bubbles. Of course, you could even go to the real spa, too! Whichever way you prefer to care for yourself, go for it! 
  • Soak up the sun when you can. Even with the cold temps, if the sun is shining during the day, take a brisk walk through your neighborhood, or go to a local park. Connecting with nature for a few minutes each day can drastically change your mood. 
  • Eat consistently. Even when you don’t feel like doing anything, the number one thing you should still prioritize is eating consistent, healthy meals. “It’s easy to overindulge when you’re feeling down, and it’s okay to treat yourself, but one of the best ways to combat seasonal depression is by trying as best as you can to stick with a routine. Eat three meals a day that are filled with nutrients to fuel your body,” said Dr. Muhammad. 
  • Take it one day at a time. Each day will feel different, some better than others and vice versa. Though you may experience symptoms of guilt and a lack of motivation, it’s important to remember that it’s just one day, and tomorrow, you can decide to change it. So go easy and give yourself grace. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder can be challenging, but listening to your body and what it needs is all that it will take to make some days a little bit brighter. 

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