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SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder

How we recognize it and how we deal with it.

My friend – I call her Lena -is a fun-loving, incredibly humorous and very extroverted person. Every year at the same time Lena becomes a very different person. Only temporarily. And yet I hardly recognize her. With the beginning of autumn, her mood changes completely. She is unbalanced and has a lack of energy. I can hardly lure her out of the house, which is actually not a bad thing. Sometimes I prefer to stay at home rather than going out. But it’s different with Lena. During this time she can hardly be enthusiastic about something or even enjoy things. Now we know what Lena is dealing with, why she is like this and how we can help her. Lena is one of many women who suffer from the so-called seasonal depression, which starts in autumn and ends in spring.

"Light controls
our internal
clock and
ensures
well-being."

Light does not only control our internal clock, but also increases our well-being because the happiness hormone serotonin is released. One thing is certain: we need light. If people are lacking in light, they do not only lose the difference between day and night, it also has a negative effect on their mood, they feel sleepy and weak.

Colloquially, the Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is also called seasonal depression or “winter blues”. The symptoms can be explained biologically by a reduced serotonin and increased melatonin production during the day.

I have put together a few valuable tips that can reduce a SAD or help prevent it:

1. Light therapy

Light therapy is a helpful treatment for winter depression. Special white or blue daylight lamps with 3500 to 10,000 lux are used for the therapy. A lot of light breaks down a lot of melatonin. The therapy is particularly useful in the morning to break down excess melatonin from the night and wake you up. A positive mood upswing can occur. It is sufficient to sit in front of the lamp for half an hour in the morning at a distance of less than 1 meter. If you don't have time, you can also buy special helmets or glasses to which the lights are attached. The symptoms of SAD improve after about a week. The light radiation from such lamps no longer contains UV and so they are harmless.

2. Natural light
Getting enough daylight in winter is not easy. Have you ever thought about putting your summer vacation on the winter months and simply enjoying the long days in your own region in the beautiful summer months? However, a walk of at least one hour in winter in daylight can help. Because even an overcast sky has more brightness than, for example, artificial light therapy.

3. Nutrition
Increased appetite can also be a symptom of winter depression. The vitamin requirement is not adequately covered in winter since we usually eat less fruit and vegetables in these months. I therefore recommend a smoothie recipe that is also a healthy and delicious breakfast. Here you have all the important vitamins and antioxidants in one drink. Ff you get cravings for sweets now and then, you should ideally choose dark chocolate. The cocoa content in bitter chocolate is larger than in milk chocolate and therefore healthier. To do this, you should try the following recipe:

Smoothie Recipe
1 frozen banana
1/2 Avocado
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tbsp. peanut butter
a pinch of salt
200ml oat milk

Put all ingredients in a powerful blender and the creamy chocolate smoothie is ready. More recipe ideas can be found @annasharypova

4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important factor in actively tackling seasonal depression. It's often known as the "sunshine vitamin," because your body can make vitamin D on its own after exposure to sunlight. First you should try to get enough vitamin D naturally. Even in winter there are always sunny days that can be drawn from a walk or other outdoor activities. Unfortunately, especially in Northern Europe, these sunny days are not sufficient to cover the vitamin B requirement. 

A large part of the skin has to be exposed to the sun to produce sufficient vitamin D in the skin. Doctors can test whether you're deficient in vitamin D by performing a simple blood test. Alternatively there are vitamin D oils or vitamin D tablet pills. Thermal baths with heated outdoor pools are particularly recommended in cold winter months to soak up the sun over your skin. Treat yourself to a break from daily life and relax.

5. Physical activity
Physical activities can also reduce the seasonal depression. A lot of serotonin, also dopamine and adrenaline are released when you exercise. You feel more awake and in a better mood. A morning yoga routine also gets the circulation going.

6. Meet your friends or family
Even if you sometimes prefer to be at home to make yourself comfortable, an evening with friends also has medical advantages: laughter triggers a series of anomalous and neurological reactions. Endorphins are increasingly released and that is exactly what makes you happy. Lots of laughter with friends and family is therefore important.

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