Winter comes every year, and for millions of Americans, the late days of fall also signal the beginning of seasonal depression. Also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), this yearly condition can be tough, but it also responds well to depression treatment. In depression recovery programs, you’ll find the strength and support you need to thrive.
Do I Need a Seasonal Depression Recovery Center?
Many people who experience seasonal affective disorder feel increased depression starting in late autumn. Their symptoms may continue throughout the winter and even last into the spring. If you notice this change for at least two years in a row, you may meet the criteria for seasonal depression, though only a doctor can give an official diagnosis.
Autumn and winter bring shorter days, less daylight, and colder temperatures to many parts of the world. The weather conditions can upset our internal body clocks and create chemical changes in the brain. With less sunlight, the brain produces more melatonin, a hormone that affects your sleeping and waking cycle. As a result, you may feel more tired and have less energy than usual.
Many symptoms of SAD resemble the symptoms of other types of depression, but some are unique. You may experience:
- A loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Irritability and anxiety
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Trouble focusing or thinking clearly
- An increased appetite for sweets and carbohydrates
- Fatigue or insomnia
- Physical symptoms like headaches
If you choose to seek help at depression rehabs, you’ll find compassionate medical staff who can help you manage your symptoms. Depression recovery centers may use these strategies to find a course of treatment that will bring you relief. And you can try some of these techniques at home when the cold weather starts getting you down.
Ways to Combat Seasonal Depression
1. Use Light Therapy
Since exposure to sunlight affects seasonal depression, many treatments focus on getting sunshine in your life. Light therapy provides a source of light that mimics the rays of the sun, beyond what regular indoor lighting can provide.
A lightbox with fluorescent tubes that produce artificial sunlight can be a valuable investment. Try to find one with at least 10,000 lux (units of illumination). Your doctor may be able to recommend the best products for light therapy.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends people with seasonal depression use a lightbox for 30 minutes a day. Ideally, you’ll turn on the light first thing in the morning—this pattern helps reset your body clock to a cycle that’s closer to springtime. People who use light therapy often begin to feel better within a matter of weeks.
Though light boxes mimic the effect of the sun, they eliminate harmful UV rays and are safe to use throughout the winter.
2. Get Outside and Exercise
Time spent outdoors or in nature can often ease seasonal depression symptoms, even on a cloudy or cold day. Going outside early in the morning is ideal so you catch the morning sunlight.
If you can’t get outdoors, try to increase the natural light in your indoor environment by sitting closer to windows or opening window blinds.
And even a short amount of exercise, like a walk around the block, makes a positive difference in your well-being. Physical activity helps with anxiety and releases mood-improving endorphins. Whichever form of exercise you prefer, aim for at least 30 minutes four or five days a week.
3. Sleep on a Schedule
In the winter your body makes more melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, so you might feel drowsy throughout the day. You may be tempted to hibernate by staying in bed longer than usual, which is another common symptom of depression.
However, a regular, moderate sleep-wake pattern is best for your body and mind. Aim to get enough sleep—at least eight hours a night for most adults—but don’t sleep too much.
4. Stay Connected to Others
Depression is often linked to feelings of loneliness and isolation. Look for activities that help you feel like part of a community, whether you’re participating in group therapy through depression rehabs, joining a social group, or spending time with your family.
Make a point of reaching out to others however you can. Calling or writing to a friend is a great way to maintain connections to the wider world. So is volunteering with a local organization or doing something kind for someone else who needs a little help.
5. Try Medication for Depression
Talk to your doctor about antidepressant medication for your seasonal depression symptoms. Bupropion, the active ingredient in the medicine Wellbutrin, has been approved by the FDA to treat seasonal affective disorder, and other antidepressants can ease symptoms as well.
Antidepressants help rebalance your brain chemistry, and they’re often prescribed in depression recovery centers. Keep in mind it may take a few weeks for the medication to start working.
People with seasonal affective disorder may only need to take medications during the months when they experience symptoms—however, you and your doctor will figure out the best schedule for you.
Depression Recovery Programs at Lotus Recovery Centers
The medical staff at Lotus Recovery Centers takes mental health seriously. Depression recovery programs are an integral part of our treatment year-round. If you’re recovering from a substance use disorder and experiencing seasonal depression, our residential and outpatient centers in Delaware and West Virginia can help.
Each client has access to therapy and counseling. For many people with seasonal affective disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) makes a big difference. CBT teaches you how to practice healthy coping techniques and challenge negative thought patterns when times get tough, like when you’re adjusting to the onset of winter. Doctors will also work with you to determine if medication would be beneficial.
Clients in our programs benefit from a supportive community of people in recovery. You don’t need to endure seasonal depression alone. Contact 833.922.1615 to take the first step towards recovery.