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How to Prepare for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Summertime has been wonderful.

You have had a lot of energy and motivation at work and at home. Before you know it, the days begin getting shorter and nighttime arrives sooner than you would like.

The temperature outside is cooler, making you want to stay indoors more than usual.

By the time winter arrives you don’t feel like doing much of anything. It is a struggle to get up in the mornings and go to work. You feel tired all day at work. You can’t wait to get home, put on your pajamas and sleep.

Sleep, one thing you want to do as much as possible. Some days you want to stay in bed all day and avoid the world.

The start of the new year comes and goes and you remain sluggish and drab. Then it hits you, just like it did last year, you may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

How to Prepare for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Every year you experience the same symptoms.

Every year you promise yourself to take preventive measures to avoid these feelings in the upcoming year.

You are not alone. In fact, 10 million people are affected by SAD each year in America.

Because you feel so good in the summer and the fall it makes it hard to remember there will be low moments ahead. These good times have a way of blocking out the negative winter symptoms associated with seasonal affective disorder.

This winter season can be the last in which you aren’t prepared for SAD. While moving to a tropical island where it is always sunny seems like a perfect option, it may not be realistic.

Related: 5 Ways to Seasonal Affective Disorder

Start With A Diagnosis

Just because you think you have seasonal affective disorder, doesn’t mean you do. Before you start any type of program to treat your symptoms, you want to make sure you are correct in your assessment.

Meeting with a mental health professional is the first step in determining if your symptoms are caused by SAD.

Once you have been given a diagnosis, continue working with your counselor to learn more about this disorder and how it can be reduced or avoided during the winter months.

Vitamins and Supplements

Vitamin D is the only vitamin that converts to a hormone. Once it is absorbed and converted to a hormone, it regulates the immune system and attaches to mood regulating neurotransmitters in the brain.

These include dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. When these receptors in the brain are triggered, or not triggered, your mood can be affected.

While vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins aiding in the fight against SAD, it is not the only. Other supplements associated with improving mood and energy include iron, calcium, chromium, and the B vitamins.

Proper Digestion

Even though serotonin is associated with the brain and the feel-good chemicals in the brain, it has been found that 90% of your serotonin is found in the gut, or the digestive tract. Meaning, what you eat really does affect how you feel.

If it is not easily digested, you will feel sluggish, tired and depressed. Eating healthy foods that are easy to digest will lead to an improved mood.

Your gut is like a second brain. It talks to you through ailments such as an upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome and other gastric related problems. Anti-depressants are only created to treat mood symptoms in the mind, not the gut. Medicines for depression or anxiety can cause the stomach to feel ill.

Eating healthy, fresh foods is the best way to control the serotonin levels in your body. Fresh foods also provide vitamins and nutrients essential to good health.

Get More Light

You are busy. It is already hard to get as much light as you need. During the winter months, you may need to change the way you receive light that is necessary to boost your mood.

One way to get more light is to spend more time outdoors. This may mean adjusting your sleep schedule. Going to bed one or two hours early will help you wake up earlier to get more daylight.

Another way is to install luxe lighting in your home. Many people choose the 10,000 luxe lighting systems that are equal to sunlight. There are also light boxes designed specifically for people combatting seasonal affective disorders symptoms.

Exercise, Even for Just a Few Minutes

When you have SAD, exercise is the last thing you want to do. You feel an inability to even get through the day at work, much less exercise. However, even just a few minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate, can release endorphins. These are chemicals like serotonin in that they can make a person feel good.

Exercise does not have to be overwhelming. Start with a brisk walk around the neighborhood or immediately after work. You can quickly start to notice a difference in energy, focus and happiness.

Get a Social Life

Meeting with others to socialize or engage in fun activities boosts the oxytocin in the brain. Oxytocin is a feel good chemical resembling serotonin and dopamine. In fact, oxytocin specifically supports the release of serotonin.

Another benefit of oxytocin is that it calms the part of the brain that makes you fearful. It basically calms your emotions rather than exciting them.

Socializing can also prevent isolation. When you isolate yourself from others, you begin to feel more depressed. You can easily find yourself in a downward spiral of emotions.

Even if you socialize for a few extra hours each week, you will notice your mood is enhanced. Socializing does not mean you must get dressed up, leave your house, meet a bunch of people at a restaurant, eat and then go home.

Socializing can be talking to people on Facebook, positive friends, not the ones who will bring you down with negative comments. Join an online Facebook support group and communicate with others who know exactly what you are going through.

You can also email or call someone to socialize.

Seasonal affective disorder affects more women than men and usually starts when you are a young adult. If you find yourself in the same cycle every year, reach out today for help. You do not have to experience another sad winter.