Winter is coming – and that’s not a Game of Thrones reference. Colder months and holidays are swiftly approaching and for many people, it is a difficult time of year. It is an especially busy time of year and brings about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), otherwise known as seasonal depression.
What is Seasonal Depression?
Between 4 and 6 percent of the American population have depression in the winter months. Mild SAD, however, can be found in 10 to 20 percent of the population. As you head further up north, it becomes even more prevalent.
As winter approaches, the days get shorter and there is less sunlight. Because of this, people’s risk of developing SAD becomes higher. Seasonal depression typically comes with all of the regular signs and symptoms of regular depression, but it coincides with a change in seasons. On top of this, winter is when many people celebrate holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. For those without family to spend the holidays with, this can be an especially depressing time of year.
- Cravings for foods high in carbs
- Low energy levels
- Social withdrawal
- Weight gain
People with seasonal depression may also experience thoughts of suicide, feelings of hopelessness, and the desire to simply stay in bed all day. Thankfully, we live in a day and age where there are plenty of things you can do to battle seasonal depression.
Tips to Beating Depression Without Breaking the Bank
Battling regular depression can usually be done through implementing a daily routine, getting regular exercise, and keeping a healthy diet. Spending time outside can help as well. Unfortunately, because seasonal depression has more to do with the lack of sunlight during the winter months, affected individuals need to look for other low-cost ways to manage their depression.
Wake-up lights are exactly what they sound like. It simulates the rays from the sun to help you wake up in a more gentle way. These lights are definitely more pleasant than an alarm clock and it can help assist individuals with seasonal depression to see sunlight in the morning they’d normally not see in the winter. Wake-up lights can cost as little as $10 with the more expensive lights coming with a price tag of $150.
Smart home devices
Some people have been slow to adapt to smart home devices, but they can actually help people with SAD manage their symptoms. You don’t have to spend a ton to incorporate some of these devices into your home though. All you need is a Google Home or Alexa device and some smart light bulbs. The smart devices have gentle sleep and wake features that can brighten or dim your smart bulbs. It will slowly dim over the span of 30 minutes to help you fall asleep and slowly brighten in the mornings to wake you up. Google Homes cost between $40 and $120 and can be used for several things. Smart light bulbs can vary in price, depending on what you are looking for. The cheapest sets run about $16 for four bulbs.
Have you ever heard of lightboxes? These can help people battle SAD. The boxes put out lights that simulate natural outdoor light. You can spend some time near the lights for a set amount of time per day and it could have a profound impact on managing your seasonal depression. You can grab a lightbox online for about $35.
Weighted blankets have become more popular for people with anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping. Having a good night’s rest is crucial to maintain your health, especially if you’re already suffering from SAD. Though they may not be for everyone, weighted blankets can be purchased for a relatively low cost ($30 on the cheaper end) and may help you get the sleep you need during the colder months.
These are just a few options for managing seasonal depression this winter. If you find that you’re still having trouble managing your symptoms, consider contacting your health provider. Sometimes depression and other mental health issues need to be addressed by a physician.
Lastly, if you are having thoughts of suicide or your depression becomes overwhelming, you can always call the National Suicide Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.