Six Tips to Pro-Actively Reduce SAD
With the Holiday celebrations to attend and family gatherings to prepare for, the winter season can be a busy and joyful time of year. But for many, changes in light and temperature combined with the stresses of holiday events and heightened expectations can increase anxiety and cause depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder associated with depression episodes and related to seasonal variations in light. Andrea Rogers, Supervisor for Intensive Outpatient Programs in the Department of Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai, offers warning signs and suggestions to combat seasonal affective disorder this Holiday season.
"As Seasons change, there is a shift in our "biological internal clocks" or circadian rhythm due partly because of changes in sunlight patterns," says Rogers, "These changes combined with the stresses of Holiday travel, sensitive family dynamics and managing expectations can build a recipe for depression during the winter months. Juggling these variables can be challenging and can make it difficult to enjoy the joys of the season."
According to the National Mental Health Association, the most difficult months for SAD sufferers are January and February, and younger persons and women are at higher risk.
Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, is produced at increased levels in the dark. Melatonin also may cause symptoms of depression. When daylight savings time ends, and it begins getting dark earlier in the day, production of the hormone increases, which may cause depressive episodes. These biological variables mixed with environmental conditions such as cold weather, emotional reactions to holidays and anxiety can create a recipe for depression that can cast a "blue" cloud over the holiday season.
Phototherapy or bright light therapy has been shown to suppress the brain's secretion of melatonin. The device most often used today is a bank of white fluorescent lights on a metal reflector and shield with a plastic screen. For mild symptoms, spending time outdoors during the day or arranging homes and work places to receive more sunlight can be helpful.
Six tips to pro-actively reduce or eliminate environmental stressors and symptoms of SAD:
This information has been provided with the kind permission of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.
For additional information, please visit the Depression Center.
Last Editorial Review: 12/13/2002
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