With the winter months approaching, many people are starting to feel the effects of seasonal depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects 2% to 3% of the general population, though people in the far north or far south countries are more likely to feel the effects of SAD. This type of depression is believed to be caused by the amount of sunlight an individual absorbs. Because the day gets shorter and the night gets longer, we absorb less sunlight, which upsets our internal clock. There are many reasons why one may feel symptoms of seasonal depression while others will not. Young people, women, individuals with a family or personal history of depression, or people who live far away from the equator are more likely to develop SAD.
While it may be interesting to do your own research on mental illnesses, it is important to not self diagnose and to talk to a professional about treatments if you think you may be experiencing SAD.
Some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder can include:
- A sad, depressed mood that lasts most of the day, for over 2 weeks
- This mood negatively impacting your work or school performance, or relationships
- Sleep issues
- Loss of interest in things you normally enjoy
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, having low self-esteem
- Easily crying or wanting to cry but not being able to
The symptoms above are a short part of a longer list, which can be viewed at https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/seasonal-affective-disorder
There are a handful of treatments for this illness. The most common one is the use of a light therapy lamp. This type of light is designed to imitate natural light and is believed to affect the brain’s chemicals that are linked to mood and sleep, and may improve your symptoms. Other treatments that can be used to combat SAD can include the use of prescribed antidepressants, vitamin D supplements, or psychotherapy. While the symptoms may not disappear completely, it is always useful to see what does and does not work for you by trying different combinations of treatments.
Non-medical treatments that are very effective include doing things that bring you comfort or happiness, like playing with your pets, spending time with friends, or playing your favourite sport regardless of what your brain is telling you. Being physically active is one of the best ways to feel better, as your brain releases endorphins that boost your mood, and suppress feelings of anxiety or stress. Low impact workouts, like a relaxing yoga sequence or going for a long walk, are good ways to stay active if you don’t feel well enough to do more intense workouts. Meditation may be something that seems “silly”, but it is not. Meditation and learning to be mindful are some of the best things you can do to calm your mind and work towards feeling better. Mental illness is a difficult thing to overcome, especially alone. It doesn’t heal as a bone would. You need to consciously work on it and lean on your supports in order to get better. While not everyone may want to hear it, you have to want to get better to see results in your treatments.
Staying in touch with your mental health is a skill that many of us have yet to discover the importance of. Knowing who you can talk to in your community is very important in order to develop a strong support system. In the STA community, your teachers, guidance counselors, and Mrs. R are always available to talk to you about issues you may be dealing with. Mental health is still greatly misunderstood in the public and this can negatively impact you, whether you notice it or not. Having something this important be so misconceived really shows how little we know about the brain and why it works the way it does. It can be extremely frustrating to feel a certain way but not have the right words to explain it or the right people to talk to. Though you may feel it, you are never alone in whatever you may be fighting and the whole STA community stands with you and is there to support you.
Some useful resources include:
Kids Help Phone: +1 800-668-6868
Children’s Mental Health Ontario: https://cmho.org/
Reach Out Center for Kids, ROCK: https://rockonline.ca/asn/
ROCK 24-hour hotline: 905-878-9785