5 Tips to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Autumn leaves falling to the ground in city park.

Written by Anthea Noel, RN

As fall is officially underway, the days will continue becoming shorter and colder causing many Americans to experience increased sadness and depression, a condition known as Seasonal Affective disorder.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) also referred to as the “Winter Blues” is a phenomenon related to changes in seasons. According to the American Mental Health Association (AMHA), approximately five percent of the United States Population experiences S.A.D and four out of five people who experience S.A.D are women.

S.A.D is a form of depression that is recurrent usually during the winter months and is characterized by increased sleep, fatigue, weight gain, increased food intake, loss of libido, and feelings of hopelessness. These symptoms may lead to a decrease in productivity and affect professional and personal relationships.

During the winter months when there is less sunlight, the body produces less serotonin the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being.  Your brain produces the hormone Melatonin when it dark which aids in sleep. Sunlight then triggers the brain to cease the production of melatonin.

1. Find the Sun

Days are shorter during the colder months so take advantage of every hour the sun is shining.  Sun rays increase vitamin D intake and also improves your overall mood.  Artificial phototherapy including the use of fluorescent light suppresses the brain’s secretion of melatonin.

2. Stay Active 

Exercising causes the release of the endorphins which trigger positive feelings.  You will feel good emotionally while improving your cardiac and overall health.

3. Talk to Someone 

Verbal communication encourages the exploration of thoughts and feelings.  Seek a counselor, friend, colleague or someone you feel comfortable expressing your feelings to.  Get an accountability partner who will check up on you and vice versa.

4. Find Your Happy Place

Happiness is subjective.  What makes you happy may not make another person happy.  Find your happy place.  Ask yourself, “What makes me happy?”  Do you love to dance? Are you a pet lover? Does reading a good book put a smile on your face?  Find your happy place; it is a beautiful place to live.

5. Eat a Healthy Diet

Eat a balanced diet filled with fruit and vegetables.  Although you may lean towards food high in sugar during episodes of depression, opt for more complex carbohydrates like whole grains.

The colder months are filled with fun new activities.  Incorporate the tips listed above to your routine and enjoy the cooler months.

Anthea “Nurse Noel” Noel RN, BSN, MS, SANE, has comforted and placed smiles on the faces of her patients and their families for over 20 years as a professional Registered Nurse. As a writer for over 22 years in the entertainment industry, she has successfully entertained through television, music, and the big screen. Anthea merged her two loves of Health and Entertainment coining the phrase “Health Entertainment” after a friend encouraged her to do so after the death of her fiancé’ and Nurse Noel was born. In her journey through the health entertainment world, Nurse Noel was able to serve as a writer for various magazines as well as bringing health to television with style and flair as an on-air and Red carpet Health expert. Nurse Noel recently penned a book ‘Help Me to Help You While I Help Myself in the Process’ where she continues to spread the message of health and wellness to the masses. She is the senior staff writer for Heart and Soul magazine, Fit Box, Cassiuslife, O Magazine, Contributor for the Dr. Oz, and Health Corps. Nurse Noel continues to work as a Registered Nurse specialist in the fast-paced high-intensity department of the intensive care unit at the Level 1 trauma center UMDNJ Hospital in Newark NJ. Noel also works for the District attorney for Essex County as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner assisting in forensic nursing for Sexual assault survivors. She may also be seen on various media outlets weighing in on various health topics. Nurse Noel is determined to help those in need with a goal of making this world Healthier and Happier one person at a time.