Fall is on its way, which means shorter days and less sun. While that might seem like it wouldn’t be a problem in San Diego, which has excellent weather all year, the shorter days can still impact your sleep schedule and your mood. For those that struggle with seasonal depression, there are ways to combat its effects, including daily exercise and taking advantage of the sun when it’s out.
What Is Seasonal Depression?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a depressive disorder that worsens when the length of days and amount of sunlight changes. It’s common for people to experience symptoms of SAD during the start of Fall when the amount of sunlight available during the day begins to dwindle.
This can significantly affect people inside for most of the day, such as students or those with full-time jobs. A person might wake up and go to work while it’s still dark out and then end work after the sun has already set.
Symptoms of Seasonal Depression
If you find that your mood changes with the seasons, then you might have SAD. Seasonal depression shares many of the same symptoms as major depression. Still, the difference is that some symptoms are specific to the season and tend to worsen during Winter or Summer.
However, it’s common for people to have both seasonal depression and major depressive disorder. Symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in hobbies and activities that you once enjoyed
- Changes in your appetite and weight
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased agitation or sluggishness
- Feeling fatigued or having low energy
- Experiencing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Difficulties with concentration or focus
- Having frequent thoughts of suicide or suicidal ideation
- Overeating, especially with carbs
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
How to Beat Seasonal Depression
Since Fall is just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking of ways you can combat the effects that SAD has on your day-to-day life. The key is to beat the depression before it starts, making September the perfect time to implement healthy changes in your life. Starting earlier gives you time to form habits that will help your mood during shorter days, making it easier to include in your daily routines.
#1. Create an Indoor Exercise Routine
Moving your body every day can help ease symptoms of depression. Exercise is a great way to release endorphins, improving your mood. When the days become shorter, it can be harder to exercise outside, especially if there isn’t enough light to do so safely.
An indoor exercise routine will allow you to move your body despite the lack of sunlight. There are plenty of options for indoor exercise, including yoga, strength training, or joining a local gym or community fitness center.
#2. Continue to Eat a Balanced Diet
During the Winter months, it’s common for people to turn to comfort foods that are usually higher in carbs and can feel heavy on the body. While some comfort foods are fine in moderation, it’s important to ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet and plenty of water and food high in vitamins and minerals.
#3. Get the Correct Amount of Sleep
The lack of sunlight can mess with your circadian rhythm. A circadian rhythm is an internal clock that lets your body know when it’s time to wake and when it’s time to sleep. As it gets darker, your body begins to release melatonin, a chemical in your brain that causes you to feel sleepy.
During Fall and Winter, it’s common to feel sluggish, especially during the day, because melatonin is released early. This might cause you to sleep more than you need to. Starting in September, you should be aware of how much you sleep. Plan to stick to a morning and night routine that lets your brain know when it’s time to be awake or asleep.
#4. Spend Time Outside Daily
If possible, try to get sunlight every day. There are plenty of benefits to sun exposure. Spending time in sunlight can release serotonin, increasing mood and reducing stress. Sunlight can also be a great vitamin D source, increasing bone density.
This might be difficult if your work hours occur during the day. Take advantage of your lunch break. and enjoy the sun.
Predictably, seasonal depression is still possible in sunny San Diego. The days are shorter here, just like anywhere else, and if you work during shorter sunlight hours, you might not get enough vitamin D. Unfortunately, it’s common for people to use substances more during the Fall and Winter due to being shut in. Many experience symptoms of depression from the changing seasons.
Try the tips above if you think your mood or habits are affected. Start as early as today to get ahead of seasonal depression before it starts. Starting early can also help you form habits that stick when the change in season occurs.
If your mood changes the most during the seasons, contact a mental healthcare professional or call Villa Oasis San Diego for support at (323) 739-8673. You aren’t alone, and we can help.