What can I do to feel better?
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, three treatment approaches have been proven beneficial in treating SAD:
- light therapy
- cognitive behavior therapy, and
Light therapy, or sitting in front of a light box, is the most studied treatment for SAD, bringing relief to 75% of those with SAD. Many studies found that bright-light therapy was as effective as antidepressant medication but worked faster and caused fewer side effects. A major review of 173 published studies showed that bright-light therapy brought substantial relief for both SAD and mild to moderate depression that was not linked to seasonal changes.
Why it can work:
If you work in an artificially lit building, wear sunglasses when you go outdoors, and spend the evenings indoors under artificial light, you can become “light-starved.” The remedy is to increase exposure to artificial light, thus giving your body what it needs to stay in balance.
Some studies suggest that sitting in front of the light box is more effective in the morning.. The dosage most often found to be effective is 5,000 lux per day, given as 2,500 lux for two hours or 10,000 lux for 30 minutes.4 It is important to learn about light boxes, start exposure gradually, and track your symptoms to see how you respond. Discuss this with your doctor.
Light Therapy Resources
- Check out these websites to help you learn more about light therapy and Seasonal Affective Disorder. * Which light box should I buy?
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
Counseling or “talk therapy” has also been shown to help relieve the troublesome symptoms of SAD. Talking with a counselor or social worker can help you focus on changing thoughts and behaviors that contribute to SAD. If you have been depressed for a long while, it can be difficult to recognize just how much you are missing by isolating yourself. Find a licensed mental health professional through your insurance company, the yellow pages, or your doctor. Most insurances provide coverage for this service.
If your symptoms show that serotonin levels are really low, your doctor may recommend that you take antidepressant drugs. Many SAD sufferers are helped by taking medication from autumn through the end of March. Make sure if you take antidepressants that you follow your doctor’s instructions to be safe.
Exercise and Stress Management
The less you feel like moving, the more important it is to do so!
- Daily exercise outdoors is one inexpensive way of treating SAD and feeling your light starvation. The fresh air, exposure to daylight, and the endorphins you release through exercise can have a major positive effect on SAD sufferers. A 30-60 minute daily routine has many positive health effects. Join a gym for the winter months.
- Practice stress management strategies like slow deep breathing or taking a “mini vacation” during each day or on more stressful days. Take time to find inner peace through prayer, journaling, reading, or thinking of special memories and vacations
Paying attention to what’s going on with the behavior of your family members or within yourself, can help you recognize the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. When you see symptoms like these that cause you concern, get help for yourself or your loved one – it’s crucial to your well-being.