Seasonal Affective Disorder: how to deal with the January Blues | Marisa Peer

Seasonal Affective Disorder: how to deal with the January Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder: how to deal with the January Blues

Posted on January 23rd 2020 by Laura Armstrong

Blue Monday was on our calendars this week — the most depressing day of the year. With Christmas a distant memory and New Year’s resolutions waning, it is no surprise that many of us suffer from the January blues.

A concept developed by Sky Travel to sell more holidays, it is easy to dismiss Blue Monday as nonsense. However, many people do experience a drop in mood during winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognized form of depression that is determined by seasonal changes.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Most SAD sufferers find their symptoms appear in winter and improve in summer, but it can happen in reverse. Sufferers are affected differently and to varying degrees of severity, but symptoms of SAD can include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Disinterest in activities that used to bring you joy
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning
  • Craving carbohydrate-rich and high sugar foods

Who does it affect?

Psychology Today estimates that 10 million Americans are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder and another 10-20% experience mild symptoms.

Anyone can be affected — even the rich and famous. Successful movie stars are not the first thing to come to mind when we think of depression. Watching Brad Pitt joking and smiling in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor at the SAG Awards, you would be forgiven for thinking his life was always so charmed. However, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Brad described how he struggled with mental health issues early in his career: “I was doing the same thing every night and numbing myself to sleep -- the same routine: Couldn't wait to get home and hide out. But that feeling of unease was growing and one night I just said, 'This is a waste.'”

Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow might be headline news for her interesting candle fragrances today, but it has not always been smooth sailing. Gwyneth has written about her experience with depression on her lifestyle website, Goop. She describes it as “one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life,” and how regular exercise helped her deal with depression.

Both Brad and Gwyneth understand what causes their depression and how to free themselves. If you think you might be affected by SAD, read on to learn what causes it and how to overcome it.

What causes SAD?

SAD is thought to be linked to a lack of sunlight, which is why symptoms appear during seasons with reduced daylight. Lack of sunlight is believed to affect the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone) and serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone).

3 tips to cope with SAD

Internationally-renowned therapist Marisa Peer has worked with many Hollywood celebrities, helping them improve their mental wellbeing. Marisa recommends tackling SAD the same way you would treat depression.

Here are three tips for dealing with SAD:

1. Light: Maximize your exposure to natural light. Getting outside as early in the day as you can helps to regulate your body clock to know it is daytime. If your symptoms are severe, a lightbox which mimics natural sunlight can help.

2. Exercise: Get moving to boost serotonin. While the gray weather and lethargy you’re feeling may make it the last thing you feel like, exercise is key. Choose aerobic activities to get your heart rate up like jogging, cycling or a brisk walk. Exercising outdoors is optimal but even 15-20 minutes on an indoor bike can help.

3. Eat well: Fatigue makes your body desperate for a quick energy fix, leading to sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Switch to unprocessed foods that support consistent energy levels, like fresh vegetables, eggs, and fish. For help making healthy food choices, learn about Marisa’s Four R’s of Healthy Eating.

Marisa has helped thousands of clients free themselves from depression and mental health problems. In this article, she outlines further effective solutions for healing depression to help you.

Find the motivation to tackle your SAD symptoms with the Free Yourself From Depression audio download.

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