Four Ways to Limit the Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a mood disorder characterized by symptoms of depression that usually occur in early fall or winter as sunlight decreases and the days shorten. In Canada, almost one in five people suffer from SAD. Although men are also affected, it seems to be more prevalent in women. SAD can adversely affect your training goals by causing mood swings, drops in energy, sleep disorders, irritability, and appetite disorders.
*Please note that while most of the advice presented in this article does not require a prescription, it is best to consult a health professional about your personal situation.
Certain types of very intense light (approx. 10,000 lx) that mimic sunlight can help regulate biological rhythms and hormone production. One of the most effective techniques of combatting SAD is to expose oneself to an artificial source of this light for 15 to 45 minutes each morning.
Since exposure to the sun also allows us to synthesize vitamin D, it is not uncommon for inhabitants of northern regions to develop a deficiency once fall arrives. Vitamin D supplements are therefore generally recommended to promote calcium absorption and maintain good bone health. In Canada, dairy products are enriched with vitamin D to help the population reach the recommended daily intake.
For many, it’s sometimes difficult to maintain an active lifestyle in cold weather or to find the motivation to exercise when it’s dark outside by dinnertime. Nevertheless, staying active and eating well reduces the effects of SAD and helps you stay healthy. Consider signing up at a fitness centre with a workout partner or attending group classes. In addition to helping you achieve your goals, improve your sleep quality, and increase your energy level, going to the gym will give you the opportunity to exercise with people who share your goals.
In some situations, the effects of SAD may be quite severe, and antidepressants may be necessary to help alleviate symptoms. If you have tried various strategies to little avail, consult your doctor; they will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment.