Anxiety and depression affect millions of Americans every year and are among the most common mental health issues in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over 17 million adults over age 18 have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last few years, which is defined as a period of at least two weeks where a person experiences depressed mood and related symptoms.
When depression is triggered by seasonal changes (particularly in the fall and winter months), it may be a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD episodes usually happen at the same time every year and can last until spring and beyond.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, we can help. At The Green Room Psychological Services, Inc., our clinical psychologists and mental health professionals offer compassionate and comprehensive mental health services in San Diego. Read on to find out more about depression and whether you could suffer from SAD.
What causes depression?
Depression is a complex mental health issue with a number of different causes and triggers. Whether your symptoms are triggered by seasonal affective disorder or a combination of other circumstances, knowing the signs and asking for help are the first steps toward managing your symptoms and preventing them from negatively impacting your overall health and quality of life.
Some of the factors believed to contribute to depression in some people include:
- Brain chemistry
- Underlying health issues
Common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:
- Feelings of gloominess, sadness, and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies and social activities
- Lack of energy
- Sleep problems
- Poor diet
- Thoughts of suicide
If you’re experiencing thoughts and impulses of suicide or self-harm, please seek emergency help.
SAD can develop during any season, but it’s most common during the winter months.
Tips for managing seasonal depression
Whatever your situation and circumstances, you don’t have to suffer in silence or try to deal with your depression on your own. Here are some steps you can take to find relief:
Shorter days and less access to sunlight can lead to lower levels of vitamin D and imbalances in your serotonin and melatonin levels. If you can, try to spend at least 30 minutes outside every day. If this isn’t possible due to weather or your schedule, artificial light can be a good substitute.
Sweat it out
Going to the gym or engaging in strenuous physical activity can feel almost impossible during a bout of depression when energy levels and motivation are lower than ever. Yet, not only does exercise help to release feel-good chemicals like endorphins, but it can also help to offset the weight gain that some people experience with depression. It can also help fight stress and improve energy levels.
If you can’t run or bike outside, indoor activities are the next best thing. Whether you take a boxing class or a restorative yoga session, try to stay active and move your body several times a week.
Eat a healthy diet
Treating yourself to the occasional cookie or sugary coffee drink can be a source of comfort in moderation, but eating a healthy and well-balanced diet is especially important — and helpful — during a bout of depression. From helping to boost your vitamin D intake to keeping your blood sugar stable, food is a powerful tool in managing depression.
Ask for help
Sometimes you just need some time alone to process your feelings and decompress from stressful circumstances and situations. But isolation can ultimately make your depression symptoms worse. Confide in a trusted friend or family member, and seek professional help if your symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, or if you’re concerned for your mental and physical health.
For more information about seasonal and other forms of depression and mental health issues, contact us today to schedule an appointment.