With spring finally starting to bring us out of the depths of winter we’re in the final push out of cold days and the dark afternoons. The lack of sunlight during the daytime affects everyone differently, but for those susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder, better known as “SAD” – a form of depression that presents typically in the colder weather months for individuals living far from the equator – the late Fall to early Spring months can be catastrophic to one’s mental health. As March comes along those with SAD may begin to feel an alleviation of their symptoms, but with a few tips and healthy changes sufferers can make a quicker recovery this spring and get into some good habits to reduce symptoms next fall.
Working with various clients here at BlueSky, I make special note of those that struggle with SAD who also have a history of worsening symptoms or relapsing during the tougher winter months. I sat down with Mark, who has been in the Enhanced Treatment Program for several months to see how he manages his SAD and what advice he may have for those also struggling with depression and maintaining sobriety.
Since the age of twelve Mark has struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and describes the past decade as “having good years and bad years,” with this year in particular faring better than his last. Mark first came to BlueSky in the winter of 2015 and left at the start of Spring of 2016 after feeling confident he had the skills to maintain both his mental health and his sobriety. After achieving some success in those areas, he found himself seeking help from BlueSky nearly a year later and has been in the Enhanced Treatment Program working on how to live not only independently, but also with skills to manage his SAD, mental health struggles, and maintain his recovery.
To help offset the negative symptoms of SAD, Mark recommended “the use of a lightbox, achieving good sleep, maintaining proper sleep hygiene, sustaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, staying active, and avoiding drugs and alcohol” as the self-care tools that have worked for him to stay on track with his recovery.
For those who also may be struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, Mark offered up some final advice: “Use a lightbox – they’re very helpful. Don’t blame yourself – SAD is not your fault. Don’t use drugs or alcohol. Take your medication. Don’t isolate – it’ll make everything ten times worse.”
For more information regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder, the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) has wonderful resources and material to further the understanding behind this type of depression: