Our Top Nine Strategies for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

As the vibrant hues of summer transition into the cozy embrace of autumn, we find ourselves at a pivotal juncture that often goes unnoticed—how our mental well-being often shifts with the change of seasons and the anticipation of holidays.

It’s a time when the world around us undergoes a profound transformation, mirroring the shifts that can occur within our own minds and bodies. In this edition of our newsletter, we’ll explore symptoms like anxiety, depression, and mind racing and offer powerful and effective holistic strategies to navigate them with resilience by sharing our top nine strategies for managing our seasonal shifts in our mental health and we’ll share a special invitation to the MHH Life Team Approach. 

The Seasonal Shift and Holiday Stress: A Time of Change

As the days quickly grow shorter and the nights longer, we bid farewell to the sun-drenched days of summer. The diminishing daylight hours can disrupt our circadian rhythms, leaving us susceptible to mood changes, anxiety, and energy fluctuations commonly known as seasonal affective disorder.

To add to the changes in our circadian rhythm from the changes in the season, the approaching holidays, while joyous, can also bring added stress and anxiety. The pressure to create the perfect holiday experience, combined with family gatherings, gift shopping, and the whirlwind of festivities, can for many exacerbate symptoms of mental distress.

Anxiety and Stress: 

As the days become shorter and the nights grow longer, some individuals may experience heightened anxiety levels. For some, the transition to autumn can bring a sense of uncertainty, with the diminishing daylight affecting our circadian rhythms. This disruption can leave us feeling restless and on edge, while for others the approaching holidays can compound this anxiety as we navigate the pressures of understanding and protecting our boundaries, family politics, travel, gift-giving, social engagements, and other expectations.

Anxiety can be very triggering and exhausting, and if not addressed properly, it can lead to biochemical changes in the body and neurochemical changes in the brain that leave us feeling depleted, sick, tired, depressed, and can also lead to high blood pressure, hormone imbalances, and even Type 2 diabetes!

Depression
A shift in the season, coupled with the stressors of the holidays, can for some create feelings of sadness and melancholy. The decrease in natural sunlight as the winter season approaches can interfere with the production of crucial neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin. These neurotransmitters play pivotal roles in regulating mood and sleep patterns. 

In addition, many reduce their time exercising and getting outdoors because of the early nightfall and colder temperatures. This decrease in body movement and time outdoors can lead to a decrease in our endorphins and dopamine levels (some of our “feel good” brain hormones). This can exacerbate our feelings of depression and make it even harder to get moving… which opens up the door to a downward spiral in our physical and mental health. 

Many also experience fatigue and lack of good sleep which further exacerbates depression and oftentimes gets coupled with anxiety and mind racing. 

Mind Racing:
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season, characterized by a flurry of activities and obligations, along with changes to the foods we normally eat, can lead to mind racing. This can feel like an exhausting mental whirlwind, making it challenging to focus or find inner peace, and it can really disrupt sleep, making the mind racing even worse. Mind racing can, in turn, heighten feelings of stress and anxiety, leading to loss of good sleep, changes in brain chemistry and hormones, and depression, and it can ultimately create a cycle that is difficult to break without the help of a seasoned practitioner.

Fortunately, there are many strategies that you can use when there’s a shadow over your mental health or you’re looking for effective methods to get out of the fight, flight, or freeze response and train your brain and body to go into a relaxation response instead. 

Here are our top 9 strategies for SAD (seasonal affective disorder) we use with our clients.  These powerful and effective tools and modalities work and are loved by our clients: 

  1. 1. Mindfulness and Guided Meditation: These are powerful and effective ways to down-regulate your nervous system through guiding your brain into relaxed brain wave patterns so you can get back to a state of calm and peace almost instantly. Guided meditations can be tailored to your specific needs, whether you need help during the holidays to avoid getting triggered by family members or friends, or if you need more help feeling confident in creating and maintaining your own boundaries. Guided meditation can be powerful to create a sacred space for your self-care each day and retrain your brain to bring more focus and calm into your daily life experience. There are several types of guided meditations and this one here uses a method of different voices overlaid in order to get your brain and body into deep rejuvenating states of calm and relaxation.

  2. 2. Nutrition and Supplementation for Mood: Consider adjusting your diet to support your mood and energy levels. Incorporate a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and antioxidants. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon, flaxseeds, and walnuts or high dose Omega-3 supplements can help combat symptoms of depression and anxiety, and it can also alleviate brain zaps that are common in those who are taking antidepressants. Limit sugar and processed foods, which can lead to energy crashes and mood swings. Avoid alcohol as it does nothing to benefit your brain and body and can only exacerbate your symptoms of depression, anxiety, and mind racing, not to mention that it ruins your ability to have a deep and rejuvenating night’s sleep.

  3. 3. Light Therapy: With daylight hours dwindling, consider integrating light therapy into your daily routine. Lightboxes designed for light therapy can mimic natural sunlight and help regulate your circadian rhythms. Exposure to these bright, natural-spectrum lights can alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and reduce anxiety and fatigue.

  4. 4. Physical Activity: Don’t let the cooler temperatures deter you from staying active. Engage in regular physical activity, even if it means shifting your workouts indoors. Exercise is a powerful mood enhancer, releasing endorphins that boost your sense of well-being. Fall offers unique opportunities for outdoor activities like brisk walks amidst the crisp, falling leaves or invigorating hikes in nature.

  5. 5. Connection and Support: The holiday season can sometimes amplify feelings of loneliness or stress. Combat this by prioritizing connections with loved ones. Reaching out to friends and family, whether in person or virtually, can provide a strong support network. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can ease anxiety and depression. If you find that your symptoms are particularly challenging to manage, don’t hesitate to seek support from a seasoned practitioner who specializes in holistic approaches.

  6. 6. Holistic Therapies: Explore holistic therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, or massage to nurture your mental and emotional well-being. These therapies can help alleviate stress, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation.

  7. 7. Self-Care Rituals: Dedicate time to self-care rituals that replenish your spirit. Whether it’s a warm bath with essential oils, journaling your thoughts and emotions, or engaging in creative activities like painting or crafting, these practices can provide a sanctuary of tranquility in the midst of a busy season.

  8. 8. Nature Connection: Embrace the beauty of fall by spending time in nature. Connecting with the natural world can have a profound impact on your mental health. Engage in mindful walks through parks, forests, or gardens, and allow the serenity of the outdoors to soothe your soul.

  9. 9. The MHH Life Team: Experience loving and compassionate support from our Life Team of expert practitioners who guide you, mentor you, and facilitate you in your healing and transformation experience. Book a session with us to discover how we can help you and which custom life team approach will help support you the best.  

Just as the trees shed their leaves to prepare for renewal, we too can let go of old habits, embrace self-care, and nurture our mental health. As we navigate the vibrant tapestry of autumn and the holiday season, let’s embrace these changes as an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves, strengthen our mental resilience, and experience the tremendous benefits of having a loving and compassionate life team to support you during this season of change. It’s your birthright to have an amazing and beautiful life experience and to be able to navigate the rough patches with ease and grace. So come book a session with us and embark on a path of holistic well-being. 

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