The days are getting shorter. The nights are getting longer. There is a noticeable chill in the air and the quality of the sunlight is a little more flat and dim. For as many as 1 in 4 adults, these changes can trigger seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the fall and winter months. About 10 to 20 percent of people experience mild SAD, while about 4 to 6 percent have severe symptoms.
Seasonal depression is more common in Northern states. For example, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that SAD is seven times more common in Washington state than it is in Florida. It is also more common among those who work 9-5 office jobs and may get limited exposure to sunlight during the colder months. Commuting to and from work in the dark and sitting under fluorescent lights all day is enough to put anyone in a low mood.
If you find yourself struggling with seasonal depression and office life is exacerbating your symptoms, here are five steps you can take at work to improve your overall mood and well-being.
- Take a lunch break. Make time to rest and recharge throughout the day instead of taking a “working lunch.” A recent study found that nearly 90 percent of North American employees felt more refreshed and ready to work after taking a lunch break.
- Get some sun. A 2002 study found the rate of production of serotonin was directly related to the duration of bright sunlight. Even just 10-20 minutes of sunlight a day can have a direct impact on your mood. Try to get up from your desk and get some fresh air throughout the day.
- Exercise. Staying active has been tied to improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression. If your office doesn’t have a gym nearby, try taking short walks throughout the day or making time to exercise before or after work.
- Try a sun lamp. If your office doesn’t have much natural sunlight, try a specialized sun lamp that imitates the quality of light you might find outside. This will help calm your nervous system and balance out the harsh blue light of your screens and devices.
- Consider Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating symptoms of depression. If you have limited access to sunlight during work hours, Vitamin D supplements may help you replenish your store of this important nutrient. Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.
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