During the dark winter months, many people feel lethargic and uninterested in their daily lives. It could be SAD — seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression that usually affects people during the same time each year, beginning in the fall and ending in the spring. Some people may experience it in the summertime, too. Some of the symptoms of SAD include:
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feelings of hopelessness

If you’re struggling to manage your seasonal depression, check in with your doctor

On the extreme end, SAD can lead to self-harm, thoughts of suicide, or even death. You should never take any feelings of depression lightly. If you’re feeling sad or down for multiple days at a time, or are experiencing extreme feelings of hopelessness, it’s time to check in with your doctor.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, reach out for help.

  • If your situation is potentially life-threatening, get immediate emergency assistance by calling 911.
  • If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • For general information about mental health or connection to resources in your area, reach out to the SMAHSA’s national helpline for free, confidential, 24/7 and 365 help for families or individuals facing mental or substance use disorder at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

What causes seasonal affective disorder?

SAD may be caused by many factors, including the reduced light in winter months which affects circadian rhythms and drops in the serotonin and melatonin levels that regulate sleep cycles.

After a consultation, your doctor may recommend technology that can help. Managing seasonal depression may take a comprehensive care plan, including therapy, nutrition and exercise, connecting with people who care about you, and checking in with mental health professionals. From a SAD light box to apps that connect you with friends and family, here are some tools that may assist your seasonal affective depression and help you focus on your health.

Light therapy

One of the most common treatments for SAD is light therapy. A SAD light box replaces the light you might be missing, mimicking natural sunlight. These tools may help boost serotonin and regulate melatonin, which can ease the symptoms of SAD. Your doctor may recommend a specific lamp for you, but if not, choose a lamp that is 10,000 lux and filters out ultraviolet wavelengths. You should plan on using the light box daily for 20-30 minutes for it to be effective.

Focusing on nutrition may help you manage your seasonal depression

Nutrition

What you eat can influence your mood and your mental health. Harvard Health Publishing recommends eating lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, seeds and nuts, and lean proteins, like fish or yogurt. On the flip side, they recommend avoiding foods heavy in sugar or flour, animal fats, processed meats, and butter.

When it comes to eating healthy, there are lots of tech tools that can help you. We’ve talked about Fooducate before and how it can help you eat better by tracking not only the number of calories, but also the quality of the foods you eat. That app provides suggestions for healthier options, and also allows you to customize according to any dietary restrictions or goals you may have. If you’re looking to add more veggies to your diet or to even take a stab at more plant-based eating, check out the Forks Plant-Based Recipes app, which has over 600 plant-based recipes to try.

Exercise

Research suggests that regular exercise can help alleviate symptoms of depression. There are plenty of tech tools you can use to help you get the recommended 150 minutes per week. First, you can motivate yourself with a wearable fitness tracker, like a FitBit, which can track your steps and activity, give you reminders to move, and monitor your health as a whole. You can also try video games (the fun might help boost your mood too). There is also smart gym equipment that allows you to work out from the comfort of your home, like the Peloton Bike, which offers live-streaming classes, a library of workouts, and instructors to keep you on track. Whatever physical activity you like, there’s likely a smart tool you can use, including FightCamp for boxing and Mirror for yoga and strength training.

Sleep

Sleep patterns can be disrupted when you’re struggling with depression, and you might have trouble getting enough sleep, or you might sleep too much. Fortunately, technology can help you with sleep, too. You can use a podcast to help you fall asleep, or create routines with smart lightbulbs that mimic the natural fading or increasing of light to help you fall asleep or wakeup. If you need more insight into your sleep patterns, you can track your sleep using wearables or smart mattresses. Analyzing that data can help you determine how to get your best night of sleep.

Relaxation

Finding ways to relax can be crucial for managing depression, according to WebMD. Though we often think of relaxation in terms of a glass of wine after a long workday, or binge-watching our favorite shows, those activities may not actually help depression. What you can do is meditate. A wide range of smart tools can help with meditation and relaxation, including wearables, trainers, and lamps. You can also use an app like Calm to get some downtime.

Talking about your seasonal depression with a professional can help you manage it

Connect with someone

Talking about your symptoms and your experiences can be helpful for people experiencing seasonal affective disorder. Reaching out to friends and family can help you feel better, and thanks to the internet, there are so many ways you can stay connected, from playing multiplayer video games to chatting on a video call. With technology, you can also connect to a mental health professional using your smartphone and an app. Be sure to connect with other people regularly and get help immediately if you need it.

Using technology, you can take steps to manage your seasonal depression. Finding the right combination of treatments, including focusing on nutrition, using a SAD light box, and/or using a therapy app will be unique for every person, so be sure to consult with your doctor to get their recommendations for treatment first. For more articles on life with technology, check out the CenturyLink Discover blog.

Kirsten Queen is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for CenturyLink and Quantum Fiber. Since she started writing professionally, Kirsten has dabbled in nonprofit grant writing and communications, social media marketing, and now writes content about life with technology. In her free time, Kirsten likes to cook, garden, and hike in the mountains of Colorado. Her name rhymes with first, not cheer.