When you are living with cancer, life can have new challenges. As we enter the winter months, seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can happen to anyone – including cancer patients and/or caregivers. Because it’s most common when the weather starts to get cold and there is less daylight, we refer to it as the “winter blues.” However, the feelings of depression and sadness aren’t only caused by a change in climate; they can be exacerbated by the stress of the holiday season.
The exact cause of seasonal depression remains unclear. Still, experts speculate it has something to do with how changes in the weather disrupt our internal clock, sleep patterns, and normal routine – which then impact our emotional and mental state.
Fortunately, there are ways to combat seasonal depression. Here’s how:
Understand the signs and symptoms
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of seasonal depression is your first line of defense. Knowing you may be suffering from seasonal depression can help you get ahead of it by contacting your care team or reaching out to a trusted family member or friend. Signs and symptoms of seasonal depression can include:
- Low energy
- Fatigue, easily exhausted
- Appetite changes
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Sleeping more than usual
- Difficulty focusing
- Lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
- Feelings of depression
Commit to a schedule
Create a schedule that involves times for meals, exercise, hobbies, and sleep. Make sure you’re not skipping meals or too busy for the things you enjoy. Sticking to a schedule keeps your mind busy, leaving little space for negative feelings to take over and overwhelm you. Allow the schedule to give you a sense of purpose.
Soak in the sun
Sunlight is key to battling seasonal depression because our bodies need it to generate vitamin D production and create melatonin. Melatonin helps us sleep, support bone health, lower blood pressure, and promote good mental health.
Getting enough sleep at night not only helps you feel rested and energized, but also ensures you get the opportunity to soak up more sunshine in the morning. When there’s less sunlight due to the winter months, we produce less serotonin, which affects our moods. If you can’t make it outdoors, open the blinds or curtains and let natural sunlight into your room. If you go outdoors to enjoy the sunlight, don’t forget to practice good sun protection.
Get support from your care team
Your doctors do more than diagnose your condition, administer treatment, and prescribe medication. They support your mental health and well-being by connecting you with resources and counseling. Be open with your medical team about any negative feelings and changes in your physical or mental health that you may be experiencing.
Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about cancer and seasonal depression.