’Tis the season for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects about 6% of Americans severely (another 14% experience milder symptoms), usually when days grow shorter. Symptoms include concentration problems, fatigue, weight gain, and pessimism. “With SAD, you lose energy, endurance, and motivation,” notes Angelos Halaris, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. “It’s an everyday struggle.”
If your clients might be dealing with SAD, try these strategies to help:
- Shift their routine. “Mornings are very tough with SAD,” Dr. Halaris explains. “Changing to another time of day, when they’re already up and around, makes it easier.” Also consider changing the workout. “Moderate exercise can improve symptoms. But pushing to keep up an intense routine could be frustrating and exhausting.” Try lighter weights or a shorter routine.
- Take it outdoors. “Vitamin D may be at low levels in people with SAD,” Dr. Halaris says. “Exposing your skin, even if it’s just your face and hands, to sunlight stimulates vitamin D production.”
- Encourage a healthy diet and sleep schedule. “SAD is like hibernation,” Dr. Halaris says. “But you’ll likely have more energy if you stick to seven or eight hours of sleep per night and no naps. Follow a healthy diet to avoid weight gain.”
TTE, N/D 2014