Lifestyle

Seasonal depression has no single solution

There is no easy way to cure seasonal depression for students who are feeling blue this November, but exercise, nutrition, and social well-being may ease symptoms for those who are suffering.

“There isn’t anything that is currently 100 per cent effective for everyone,” said Jaime Jenkins, mental health practitioner specializing in addictions, and mild to moderate anxiety and depression.

“There are many varied treatments out there, and while not every treatment works for everyone, there is something that works for everyone.”

According to Jenkins, depression is currently the leading cause of disability worldwide, but because of the significant stigma surrounding mental illness, many people avoid seeking help.

“[Depression] is a very real and distressing condition.

“If you start to feel symptoms, don’t worry.

“You aren’t crazy.

“You are, in fact, quite normal.”

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been reclassified in the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern, according to Jenkins.

“Which is really just fancy speak for, it’s no different from ‘regular’ depression, except that it is only present at a specific time of the year.”

SAD is most common during fall and winter, but it can appear at any time during the year and may cause symptoms similar to those of depression.

According to Jenkins, the treatment for SAD is “pretty much the same” as for depression, and may include a combination of counselling, medication, and lifestyle changes –especially exercise.

“There is more and more research saying that exercise and getting out into nature are the best ways to combat depression.

“It’s harder in the winter, but whether you go to the gym or strap on some snowshoes, the benefits are there.”

In addition to breaking a sweat, nutrition is another piece of the puzzle, according to Grace Wong, registered dietitian specializing in mental health nutrition.

The connection between mental health and nutrition is well-established in the scientific community.

However, Wong said that because of the complexity of the brain, there is no clear evidence to prove that there is just one “superfood” or vitamin that will enhance brain function or mitigate the risk of seasonal depression.

Wong recommends eating a diet rich in a wide variety of nutrients, instead of focusing on one specific vitamin or nutrient in an attempt to manage symptoms of seasonal depression.

Eating meals at regular intervals throughout the day may also play a part in enhancing overall health, because according to Wong, “how we eat is just as important as what we eat.”

“Even though [nutrition] will not be the magic bullet, it will probably have a positive impact down the road,” she said.

Eating meals with others may also contribute to a healthier mental state, increased social well-being, and a better level of nutrition, Wong added.

If depression begins to rear its ugly head during the fall and winter months, Jenkins said that reaching out and talking to someone could be the best medicine.

“Having feelings of depression is hard, but there is a way through.

Don’t give up.”

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