The Dark Ages: How to Fight Seasonal Depression

Many people around the world experience a downturn in their overall mood as the weather gets colder in their communities. Seasonal Affective Disorder–better known as seasonal depression–may be the answer as to why so many feel this way. The big question is: what is it, and how can we fight it?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for many essentially results from the shortened hours of daylight. In our brains, this disorder affects two chemicals: melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is produced and released when it is dark outside, as its purpose is to help us fall asleep; serotonin is produced during the day so that we feel more energized. Though this balance of melatonin and serotonin seems simple, this dynamic is warped by the shortening of the daylight hours in the winter. When we are awake, even though it is dark outside, melatonin continues to be produced in our brains and serotonin is not released, resulting in a feeling of sluggishness and lack of energy. As a result, those feelings will lead to a more depressed state over time. This may be expressed through changes in eating or sleeping patterns, changes in mood, more negative thinking, and difficulty concentrating.

The difference between SAD and regular depression is that SAD only occurs at a certain time of the year–it is not a year-round thing. If you suffer from SAD, you may begin to experience a lift in your mood with the passing of the season, whereas those suffering from regular depression will continue to feel down.

Now that we know why we might be feeling this way, we can begin to develop a plan for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder. Firstly, talk to a doctor; they will be able to tell you more than a newspaper article. From there, a doctor can provide different methods to help you, such as recommending a therapist, prescribing medication, or even providing a lightbox for phototherapy.

On top of talking to your doctor, it is important to implement two things in your day-to-day life: discipline and connection. Sleep is a big factor in your overall mood, so create a sleep schedule you can adhere to. Crafting a certain eating plan may also be beneficial for some. By removing a surplus of simple sugars (which provide lots of energy before making you crash) you may feel more balanced and awake throughout the day.

More than anything, invoke discipline so that you can be patient–this feeling will not immediately go away. Connection is also extremely important in fighting feelings of isolation and loneliness that accompany Seasonal Affective Disorder. Make an effort to see your friends and make plans, and communicate with your teachers if you are having a hard time focusing in class and need help with your assignments.

It might seem tough right now, or maybe you are dreading the return of your seasonal depression from last year. In the end, there are lots of people who feel this way to the point where it’s almost natural. Just remember to take care of yourself, and you’ve got this!