Winter's brief, chilly days are generally the first thing that comes to mind when we discuss seasonal melancholy. After all, throughout the dead of winter, the vast majority of persons who suffer seasonal mood shifts experience the most tension and worry.
Sad, however, can strike at any time and throughout any season. And many individuals may find that they're feeling a little more worried or depressed than they did a month ago as we leave the summer behind and shift into our new fall routines.
According to Dr. Eric Golden, a psychiatrist at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Western Psychiatric Hospital, "this time of year, when the days become shorter, you can already start to develop some of the symptoms of the seasonal pattern of depression — even if it doesn't rise to the level of a medical diagnosis."
Here's why the fall may be so stressful or depressing.
The change of seasons influences our mood for a variety of reasons. One reason is that in the autumn, our schedules tend to pick up, bringing with them more anxieties and obligations that may be detrimental to our heath.
We are exposed to less sunshine as the days grow shorter. The brain is quite responsive to the light-dark cycle, said Dr. Paul Desan, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.
Although there is still much to understand about how sunlight affects the neurotransmitters in our brains that control how we feel, there is mounting evidence that seasonal changes can cause chemical changes in the brain. For instance, serotonin, the neurotransmitter linked to sadness and mood control, is known to be correlated with reduced amounts of sunshine, according to Golden.
Finally, some folks may begin mentally preparing for the impending winter. They could worry that the toughest time of the year for them is approaching if they have previously struggled with seasonal sadness or anxiety, Desan said.
Seasonal mood swings come in different shades. Desan claims that although research has proven that most individuals feel better in the summer than the winter, the degree of the symptoms may actually differ. While some people may just have minor symptoms, such as decreased energy, others may experience significant depressive illness.
A number of risk variables, including your overall health, family history, place of residence, age, and gender, affect this to a large extent. The important finding, however, is that most people experience worse winter symptoms and better summer symptoms, according to Desan.
How to handle the stress of the season
It's not necessary to wait until the symptoms are severe, according to Golden, to begin adjusting to seasonal mood swings. When left untreated, even minor symptoms might make it difficult for you to go about your day as easily as you'd want.
Checking in with oneself and noting any mood changes, such as a drop in energy or mentality, is the first step. Establishing and maintaining a schedule can also be beneficial. Aim to wake up and go to bed at the same hour each day.
Get some light exposure every day because light has such a significant influence on our brains. You might do this via bright light treatment or by scheduling some time outside in the natural light. If you decide to use light treatment, Desan advised that you go for a medical-grade light source that emits 10,000 locks per second.
You should sit in front of the light for around 30 minutes each day, preferably first thing in the morning, to get the maximum effects. The earlier in the morning you are exposed to light, the stronger it is, Desan explained. And although some individuals will start to feel better after a week of starting light treatment, it can take up to a month.
In addition, you should continue engaging in the activities that have been shown to maintain our wellbeing. Everything you do to enhance your well-being, like regular exercise, engaging in social activities, and maintaining a healthy diet, has an impact on how you feel. Reach out to a doctor to discuss your symptoms and other treatment options, including as psychotherapy and medication, if these techniques don't work or if your situation worsens.
Seasonal mood swings are common, but that doesn't imply that dealing with them has to be difficult. Staying on top of it requires a preventative and proactive strategy, according to Golden.
© 2022 Christian Daniel