How to Survive SAD in the Winter Months

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If you have felt depressed during winter months, you are not alone. As it gets darker earlier each day, and temperatures drop, many people experience “winter blues” or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This year, seasonal affective disorder could be worse than ever. However, there are ways you can prevent and manage SAD to help you get through the pandemic’s winter months.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during a change of seasons, typically in the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight. While the cause of SAD is not known, brain chemicals that affect your mood can change according to the amount of light you get each day.

It is also difficult to diagnose SAD as many other types of mental health conditions cause similar symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, to be diagnosed with SAD you must meet the following:

  • Have symptoms of major depression.
  • Experience depressive episodes that occur during specific seasons for at least 2 consecutive years. Nevertheless, not all people who experience SAD experience symptoms every year.
  • The depressive episodes are much more frequent than other depressive episodes that the person may have had at other times of the year during their life.

Signs and Symptoms of SAD

SAD is more common in women than in men. It is also more common to those who live farther north where there are shorter daylight hours. Symptoms of SAD last about 4 to 5 months a year and not every person with seasonal affective disorder experiences the symptoms below:

  • Low energy
  • Feeling depressed most of nearly every day
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing changes in appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness

Specific symptoms for winter-depression SAD:

  • Oversleeping
  • Overeating (weight gain)
  • Social withdrawal

How is SAD Treated?

There are four primary treatments for SAD:

  1. Light Therapy: A method that mimics natural outdoor light using a special light box with the goal of changing the brain chemicals linked to mood. It typically takes a few days to a few weeks before becoming effective. Your doctor will be able to help determine if this is the best option for you and identify which product would be the most effective.
  2. Medications: Individuals with depression are more susceptible to SAD, making antidepressant treatment a good option. 
  3. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is another option to treat SAD. Therapy can help you learn coping mechanisms to manage your stress and changing your negative thoughts and behaviors.
  4. Mind-Body Connection: This includes a variety of techniques such as meditation, guided imagery and music or art therapy.

Coping with SAD

  • Self-care: It is important to take care of yourself and your mental health. Find time to do the things you love. Whether it be reading a book or discovering a new hobby, taking time for yourself will help you feel better.
  • Find something to look forward to: From cooking your favorite meal or watching your favorite show, having things to look forward to aids in regulating your mood.
  • Try to stay active: Exercise is a great way to counteract some main symptoms of SAD such as drowsiness and fatigue because exercising gives you energy and boosts your mood.
  • Be mindful of what you eat: Individuals with seasonal affective disorder tend to eat more starchy and unhealthy foods. It is important to try and eat things that can give you energy. For example, vitamin D can help manage depression but is insufficiently produced in our bodies during winter. Taking vitamin D supplements and consuming foods that are rich in vitamin D can go a long way in helping you feel better.

How Can Tria Health Help?

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. If you are interested in exploring medication treatments for SAD, Tria’s pharmacist will be able to provide you with recommendations and coordinate with your doctor(s).

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder (nih.gov)
  2. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic
  3. Seasonal affective disorder: How to get through the pandemic’s winter months – CNN
  4. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
  5. Seasonal affective disorder: Prevention and coping strategies (medicalnewstoday.com)

World Suicide Prevention Day

Every year World Suicide Prevention Day falls on September 10th. This day is dedicated to promoting worldwide action to prevent suicides. 2020 has been an extremely difficult year for many, making this day even more crucial. On this day organizations, government agencies, and individuals get a chance to promote not only suicide prevention, but mental illnesses associated with suicide as well.

Why Suicide Prevention Day is Important

  • Suicide affects us all. Sadly, many of us know someone who has committed suicide. The pandemic has caused loneliness and stress only increasing suicide and suicidal thoughts. This day reminds everyone that no matter how bad things are right now, there is always hope that they will get better.
  • Awareness –> action. When you raise awareness on a topic it causes more people to act. A vast majority of people are confused about how to help someone who is struggling with their mental health. World Suicide Prevention Day provides the resources people need to learn more about the reasons behind suicide. This knowledge has the power to save someone’s life.
  • It illuminates mental health issues. September 10th is a reminder that discussing mental health should not be a taboo subject. Advocating for mental health is imperative and hard conversations need to happen in order to help.

Facts About Suicide

  • 1 in 15 American adults suffer from depression.
  • Suicide is most common among people between the ages of 45 and 64.
  • Men commit suicides more often, but women are more likely to make an attempt.
  • Just about every 12 minutes someone commits suicide in America.
  • 1 in 4 U.S. young adults have considered taking their life in the past month due to the pandemic.

How to Help

Try to look for any warning signs of suicide such as mood swings, personality changes, anxiousness, amid others. All warning signs can vary from individual to individual because everyone processes things differently. If you have a friend who has revealed that they have been having suicidal thoughts, contact your local suicide prevention hotline. Furthermore, call this hotline if you see a person post something on social media that makes you concerned for their mental well-being. Keep in mind that it is not easy to know when someone is struggling. Make it a part of your routine to check-in by calling, hanging out, and keeping in constant communication with your friends, family, and loved ones.

Tria Can Help

If you or someone you know are dealing with mental health related issues, Tria can help. A large number of people decide to take medications to effectively manage their mental health. If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. If you are interested in exploring medication treatments for mental health, Tria’s pharmacist will be able to provide you with recommendations.

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Resources:

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741 at any time for help.

Suicide Prevention Resource Center: http://www.sprc.org/

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: https://afsp.org/

Sources:

  1. https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/world-suicide-prevention-day-2020/#:~:text=World%20Suicide%20Prevention%20Day%202020%20World%20Suicide%20Prevention,is%20a%20major%20preventable%20cause%20of%20premature%20death.
  2. https://nationaltoday.com/world-suicide-prevention-day/
  3. https://www.theodysseyonline.com/suicide-prevention-day-pressing

Working From Home

Image Source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash

Making the Switch

As those with the ability to work from home have probably learned, it’s a lot different than going into the office. Although production and availability can increase, separating work from home can get more complicated. If you don’t use available resources early, it can only get worse. Those working from home for the first time have probably noticed how much verbal communication plays a role in the office and how productivity works throughout the week. Asking a question by peeping your head over the cubicle or walking down the hall is no longer that simple. It can be if you stay up to date on communication software and available technology your employers employ. But just having them downloaded to your computer and phone doesn’t solve all communication problems. Doing a quick Google search about the program can give you articles, tutorials, and videos to help improve your work-flow ability. Transitioning to working from home can be difficult and takes time to understand your schedule while managing all the other distractions around you at home.

Physical Health

Now more than ever it is essential to listen to your body and keep up with or even start those healthy routines. Just because you’re in the comfort of your home doesn’t make anything simpler, it can sometimes make things more complicated. All those times you walk around to ask questions, pick a paper up off the printer, grab a snack from the kitchen or get up to move in general you’re not doing anymore while being stuck behind that screen. It’s easy to get busy so don’t forget to move around throughout the day. Adding some sunshine will even help boost your mood and productivity. Taking some time at your desk to stretch and re-group in between meetings or projects can help create a transition too.

Mental Health

Monitoring your mental health during this time is just as important as physical health. Everyone has had to make drastic changes to their everyday life and its crucial to recognize those and work through the struggles that can arise. For those prone to anxiety and depression it’s important to recognize your feelings and work through them in ways that have worked in the past, such as reading, staying connected or even remote therapy.1 Being aware of your mood and behavior throughout this time will be valuable to your working from home experience. Always be mindful and reach out to the appropriate people if necessary.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Create a designated workspace to ensure the separation of work and home.
  2. Avoid being stuck in the same chair all day. Take the dogs for a walk, check the mail, or take a call outside, just try your best not to get cabin fever.
  3. Overcommunicate with everyone and never feel like you’re asking a ‘dumb’ question.
  4. Create a routine for before, during, and after work to hold yourself accountable.
  5. Block off time to handle things that may be distracting to you and/or your work (i.e. kids and homework schedules, etc.)
  6. Take advantage of this time at home. This may be the only time you get to work from home so throw that load of laundry in at lunch. Eat lunch with your quarantine crew while you have the chance.

Do what’s best for you!

If you have a chronic condition, these changes may be having a bigger impact on you and staying healthy is more important than ever. While the transition from the office to home may seem simple, you need to establish a routine to ensure you’re effectively managing your health. If you have any questions related to your condition management or medications, call the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742. Tria Health is a no cost benefit provided through select health plans.

Sources:

  1. https://www.fastcompany.com/90479504/how-to-maintain-your-mental-health-while-working-from-home

Mental Health and Chronic Condition Management

Sad man sitting in a corner
Image Source: Fernando @cferdo/Unsplash.com

According to a recent study published in Psychological Medicine, mental health disorders affect 44 million American adults. This includes a variety of conditions, including depression and anxiety. It is critical for organizations to provide support for mental health, not only for the overall well-being of their employees but also to help manage their overall health care cost.

Employers Should Invest in Mental Health Because They Bear 50% of the Cost

Including mental health services in a comprehensive benefits package is a smart decision for all employers. By investing early, employers can attract new talent and offset some additional costs that are associated with unmanaged mental health. Almost 43% of persons with severe depressive symptoms reported serious difficulties in work, home and social activities.1 A 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, estimates depression costs the U.S. economy $210 billion annually; employers bear 50% of that cost.

Patients with Chronic Conditions and Depression are 2x Less Adherent

Chronic conditions can be a lot to manage at an individual level. It’s not surprising that a percentage of those who are diagnosed with a chronic condition also experience some form of depression or anxiety. Studies show that people with diabetes have a greater risk of depression than people without diabetes.2 This connection is significant when it comes to adherence.  Results from 47 independent samples showed that depression was significantly associated with non-adherence to the diabetes regimen. In addition, the estimated odds of a depressed patient being non-adherent are 1.76 times the odds of a non-depressed patient, across 31 studies and 18,245 participants.3

Provide a Path to Care – Connect Employees to Providers

Employers can make accessing a mental or behavioral healthcare provider easier by offering a program that helps connect employees with providers who are in-network, vetted for quality of services and accepting new patients.4 They can also provide assistance by making sure employees know what programs and benefits are available. It’s one thing to offer mental health services to employees, but it’s equally important that everyone is familiar with and know how to access them.

Tria Health and Mental Health

Many patients decide to take medications in order to effectively manage their mental health. There are a variety of mental health medications currently on the market, ranging from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) to atypical antidepressants. Because there isn’t a test to measure to brain chemicals, it can be a trial and error process to identify the best treatment for a patient. If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. If you’re interested in exploring medication treatments for mental health, Tria’s pharmacist will be able to provide you with recommendations.

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk: 1.888.799.8742

Source:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db172.htm
  2. Diabetes Care. 2008 Dec; 31(12): 2398–2403. doi: 10.2337/dc08-1341
  3. J Gen Intern Med. 2011 Oct;26(10):1175-82. doi: 10.1007/s11606-011-1704-y. Epub 2011 May 1.
  4. https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/increasing-employee-access-to-mental-health-benefits?tag=00000151-16d0-def7-a1db-97f024be0000

Getting Through Winter: How to Survive SAD

Man walking in the snow
Image Source: Alice Donovan Rouse/Unsplash

With winter weather sweeping across the country, many individuals are experiencing winter-onset depression also known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While the cause of SAD is not known, brain chemicals that affect your mood can change according to the amount of light you get each day.1 While some may be more susceptible to SAD than others, there are ways of preventing and managing SAD until you get through the season.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that happens during a change of seasons, usually occurring during autumn and winter months when there is less sunlight. Symptoms usually go away in late spring or early summer.1

How is SAD Treated?

There are four primary treatment methods for SAD: Light therapy, medications, psychotherapy, and mind-body connection techniques.2

  • Light Therapy: A method that mimics natural outdoor light using a special light box with the goal of changing the brain chemicals linked to mood. It typically takes a few days to a few weeks before becoming effective. Your doctor will be able to help determine if this is the best option for you and identify which product would be the most effective.
  • Medications: Individuals with depression are more susceptible to SAD, making antidepressant treatment a good option. 
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, is another option to treat SAD. Therapy can help you learn coping mechanisms to manage your stress and changing your negative thoughts and behaviors.
  • Mind-Body Connection: This includes a variety of techniques such as meditation, guided imagery and music or art therapy.

How Can Tria Health Help?

If Tria Health is offered through your benefits plan, you have the option of receiving a one-on-one, private consultation with one of Tria Health’s pharmacists over the phone. During your consultation, your pharmacist will review all your current medications, including vitamins and supplements. If you’re interested in exploring medication treatments for SAD, Tria’s pharmacist will be able to provide you with recommendations and coordinate with your doctor(s).

Questions?

Call the Tria Health Help Desk at 1.888.799.8742

Sources:

  1. https://www.drugs.com/cg/seasonal-affective-disorder.html
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20364722