Individual Counseling and Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Individual counseling can be a huge help if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder. It is not uncommon for people to experience seasonal fluctuation in moods, but if you suffer from SAD, things might seem more intense. Terri Dichiser is trained and experienced to help you through this turbulent time. 

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Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, usually beginning and ending at the same time every year. It is most associated with the onset of fall and winter and is often called “winter depression” or “winter blues.” However, some people may experience SAD during the spring or early summer.  It is believed to be related to the reduction of sunlight during the shorter days of the fall and winter months. The decrease in sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) and lead to a drop in serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, and melatonin levels, which can affect sleep patterns and mood. Symptoms can include: 

  •       Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety
  •       Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  •       Changes in appetite, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  •       Weight gain
  •       Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  •       Fatigue and low energy
  •       Irritability
  •       Oversleeping or difficulty in staying asleep
  •       Social withdrawal

So, what is the cause of this ‘winter blues? Seasonal affective disorder is thought to be caused by a disturbance in the normal circadian rhythm of the body. Sunlight entering through the eyes influences this rhythm. When it’s dark, the pineal gland produces a substance called melatonin, which is responsible for the drowsiness we feel each day after dusk. Light entering the eyes at dawn shuts off the production of melatonin. There is also evidence linking SAD to a reduced amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Luckily, there are options to help, such as individual counseling.  

Like many other mood disorders, you can take action to lessen the severity of the symptoms associated with SAD or the winter blues. While you may not be able to change the weather or amount of daylight during the winter, you can practice good self-care to help you feel better. Several strategies can help alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. While these methods may not entirely cure the condition, they can improve mood and overall well-being. Some of these strategies include:

  •       Light Therapy: Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves exposure to bright light that mimics natural sunlight. This can help regulate the body’s internal clock and improve mood. Light therapy boxes are designed specifically for this purpose and are often used for 30 minutes to a few hours daily, especially in the morning. Additionally they have light therapy glasses to wear. 
  •       Regular Exercise: Engagingin regular physical activity can help boost mood and energy levels. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, and can help alleviate symptoms of depression associated with SAD.
  •       Spending Time Outdoors: Whenever possible, spending time outdoors during daylight hours can be beneficial. Natural sunlight, even on cloudy days, can still provide some benefits associated with light therapy and help regulate the body’s internal clock.
  •       Healthy Eating: Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet can support overall well-being and help manage symptoms of SAD. Avoiding excessive consumption of sugary and carbohydrate-rich foods can help stabilize energy levels and mood.
  •       Social Support: Spending time with friends and family or participating in social activities can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness often associated with SAD. Building a support network and staying connected can contribute to a more positive outlook and improved mood.
  •       Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. These techniques can be effective in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with SAD.
  •       Establishing a Routine: Creating a daily routine and a regular sleep schedule can help regulate the body’s internal clock and improve overall mood and energy levels. Consistency in everyday activities can provide a sense of stability and predictability.
  •       Seeking Professional Help: Consulting a healthcare professional, such as a therapist or psychiatrist, can provide additional support and guidance. They can offer individual counseling options such as psychotherapy and medication to manage symptoms and improve overall well-being.

Individual counseling can be a valuable component of the treatment plan for seasonal affective disorders. While it is commonly associated with light therapy and medication, counseling can provide additional support and coping strategies to help manage the symptoms and improve overall well-being. Individual counseling can also focus on creating long-term prevention strategies for managing future episodes of SAD. This might involve developing an action plan that includes lifestyle adjustments, healthy coping mechanisms, and effective self-care practices to reduce the impact of seasonal changes on mood and behavior; for more information about individual counseling in Overland Park, KS, contact Take Charge, Inc. at (913) 239-8255.

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