We all get the winter blues. As the days grow shorter and the frost glistens in the morning like a cold blanket, it’s natural to feel a little down. Everyone dreams of mornings when you don’t have to switch on every light in the house. However, some people can struggle with depression when the temperature and light drops, and this can be a serious problem. This form of depression is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD can interfere with your everyday life, but there are treatments available to help with this form of depression.
If you’d like to consider self-care tips that you can try at home, read our article, ‘7 Self-Care Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder’.
What Treatments Are Available?
The first step towards helping yourself is to talk to your doctor. If you’re diagnosed with SAD, this’ll be based on whether your symptoms follow a seasonal pattern, usually for two or more years. It doesn’t depend on the specific season or time of year you’re affected. For more information about symptoms and causes, read our article, ‘What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?’
Talking to someone is a great help when you’re feeling down or depressed. Your doctor may suggest trying talking therapies, which can include:
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT): based on the idea that your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and actions are interconnected. CBT aims to help you deal with overwhelming problems in a more positive way by breaking them down into smaller parts.1
- Group-based CBT
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): based on the idea that personal relationships are at the centre of psychological problems. IPT is a form of therapy that focuses on you and your relationships with other people.2
- Behavioural Activation (BA): based on the idea that depression is a result of avoiding certain activities or situations. BA encourages you to approach activities that you’d rather avoid, and you’d define goals and ‘activity schedules’ with your therapist.3
Your doctor can discuss the different options available in your area, and they’ll help you find the right kind of talking treatment for you.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor might prescribe antidepressants, either on their own or along with a talking treatment. Different people find different medications more helpful, so talk to your doctor about your options. You might find that you need to try a few different types of medication before you find the one that works for you.
As lack of daylight triggers SAD, you could consider light therapy as a treatment. Certain lights have been designed to mimic daylight, which suppresses the release of melatonin. You won’t feel as sleepy during the day, and these lights trigger the release of brain chemicals that are linked to a more upbeat mood. Our SAD Therapy Light from Lifemax combats the effects of SAD and helps to improve your mental wellbeing during the darker months. You can also check out our Wake Up to Daylight light from Lumie, an alarm clock that recreates a gradual sunrise in the morning, so you wake up with light.
Light therapy won’t cure Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it may ease the symptoms, increase your energy levels, and help you feel better.4
To get the most out of light therapy, you should:
Get the right light. Talk to your doctor before starting light therapy. If you do, you’ll get the proper brightness, the right kind of light, and the style and features that make it more convenient for you to use.
Be consistent. Stick to a daily routine of light therapy sessions to help ensure that you maintain improvements over time. If you can’t do light therapy every day, take a day or two off, but monitor your mood and other symptoms. To get the full effect, you may have to find a way to fit light therapy into every day.
Track the timing. If you interrupt light therapy during the winter months, or stop too soon in spring when you’re improving, your symptoms could return. Keep track of when you start light therapy in the darker months, and when you stop in the spring. This way, you’ll know when to start and end your light therapy the following year.
While some people find light therapy helpful in easing SAD’s symptoms, it doesn’t work for everyone. If you don’t find it helpful, discuss alternative treatments with your doctor.
What If You Don’t Feel Better?
Make sure that you see your doctor regularly so that they know how you’re doing, and how well any treatments are working for you. Different things work for different people, especially as SAD affects people differently. If a particular treatment isn’t working for you, let your doctor know so that they can offer you an alternative.