• Millions of Americans experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Therapy and medication are important in treating the condition
  • Below are some of the things that people can do to fight off the winter blues

Feeling blue? You might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the "winter blues."

If you've been feeling blue lately, you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), millions of Americans experience SAD, but many of them don't even know that they have it.

SAD is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern, with most cases lasting for about four or five months that begin in fall or winter and end in the spring or summer. Some people experience SAD in the summer, although it's considered to be less common.

When the seasons change, people with SAD experience mood changes that affect their daily lives. SAD symptoms are quite similar to other depressions but those experiencing winter SAD may also oversleep, overeat and socially withdraw as though they are "hibernating," NIHM explained. On the other hand, summer SAD may cause insomnia, anxiety, poor appetite, restlessness and "episodes of violent behavior."

So how can one fight off SAD? It's important to seek therapy, get enough sunlight exposure and take antidepressants, but here are some tips that people can do on their own to curb SAD. Courtesy: American Psychiatric Association (APA), Johns Hopkins Medicine and Cleveland Clinic:

Try light therapy

If exposure to sunlight is not possible or available, people with SAD can try light therapy. According to the APA, this involves sitting in front of a light therapy device that emits a bright light without the harmful ultraviolet rays. In many cases, light therapy for 20 to 30 minutes per day show improvements a week or two after the first session.

Set realistic goals

It's important to set realistic goals and not to pressure oneself to do too many things at once. Instead, Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends breaking down tasks into smaller ones and tackling only what one can.

Similarly, it's also important not to expect or pressure oneself to feel better quickly.

"People rarely 'snap out of' a depression," Johns Hopkins Medicine said. "But they can feel a little better day-by-day."

Confide in others

Dealing with SAD could be easier if one confides in someone, whether it's a friend or a family member. This can also help if one needs to make major decisions while still experiencing SAD. This way, the individual can also have a more objective view of the situation before making the decision.

Stay healthy

Eating healthy is always a good tip, but even more so when one is experiencing SAD. This includes eating a well-balanced diet with vitamins and minerals, having enough sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol and even trying an exercise program. Since it could be cold outside, the Cleveland Clinic recommends looking for indoor exercise routines such as yoga or running on a treadmill.

Do something you like

Although it may seem hard when one is feeling blue, doing things that one enjoys could help, whether it's playing a game or watching a movie. Doing nice things for other people, like volunteering or just doing a simple task to help someone, may also help lift up a person's mood.

Anyone who feels that their depression is severe or if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts should seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides confidential help for free. People can call 1-800-273-8255 for help.

Seasonal Affective Disorder
Pictured: Representative image of an individual feeling blue. Pixabay