10 Tips to Manage the Winter Bluesby Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer
We know that winter can impact psoriasis. Beyond our psoriasis symptoms, we can also feel sad in the winter months. This feeling of sadness is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and about five percent of the U.S. population experiences these seasonal blues. Combined with psoriasis, SAD can make winter almost unbearable for some. Read ahead to learn how you can better manage your moods throughout the winter.
As the days get shorter and colder, it is easy to spend less time outside. However, one of the most effective treatments for SAD is light exposure, both natural and artificial. Getting up and going for a walk before work, bundling up and eating your lunch outside, or finding a sunny corner on the outside of your house for reading can all add a few more minutes of sunlight to your day. Short, multiple exposures to sunlight are also recommended for your skin if you have psoriasis.
Stay on Top of Your Treatment
Depression can be a silent symptom of psoriasis. The same mechanisms that cause inflammation in your skin can also cause depression. In 2016, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published treatment targets for patients and doctors to ensure psoriatic disease is being treated effectively. If you feel like you are struggling with your psoriasis, it may be time to change your treatment.
Change Your Weekly Routine
Summer can be a time for several showers a day and perfectly shaved legs. However, in the colder and drier months, this kind of routine can exacerbate your psoriasis symptoms and therefore impact your mood. It may be necessary to modify your personal hygiene habits in the winter months to help keep your skin as calm as possible.
Exercise has long been known to alleviate depressive symptoms. Combining exercise with upbeat music, the outdoors, and a group friends can help your winter mood even more. Exercise is important to your overall health but is especially important if you have psoriasis according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.
Seasonal affective disorder can make you crave more carbohydrates in the winter. Oftentimes these carbohydrates are laden with fat and sugar which can be detrimental to your psoriasis. Overly processed junk foods can promote inflammation, making your psoriasis worse. Instead of eating more carbohydrates, focus on increasing your consumption of olive oil, nuts, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and seafood during the winter months.
Try Light Therapy
According to the American Psychological Association, light therapy can be an effective treatment for SAD with few side effects. Light therapy involves sitting in front of a light therapy box that emits very bright light. It usually requires 20 minutes or more a day of sitting in front of the light. Because there are different types of light therapy, you might want to ask your dermatologist if there is a recommendation for a light box that could help with your mood and psoriatic skin symptoms.
Talk to Your Doctor About an Antidepressant
People with SAD have difficulty regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin. Any disruption of this neurotransmitter has been found to be partly responsible for depressive symptoms. There are certain medications that specifically target serotonin uptake such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft). Other types of medications may also be recommended for seasonal sadness such as bupropion (Wellbutrin).
Take a Trip to the Sun
In the United States, one percent of those who live in Florida and nine percent who live in Alaska experience SAD. Therefore, scheduling a winter trip towards the equator could provide your body with the break it needs during the colder and darker months. You might want to plan your trip before the winter begins, as once SAD symptoms begin, you may lack the needed motivation to plan a get-away.
Increase Your Vitamin D
With less exposure to sunlight, people with SAD produce less Vitamin D. Because Vitamin D plays a role in serotonin activity, Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with clinically significant depressive symptoms according to the Journal of Depression Research and Treatment. Low levels of Vitamin D can also be due to insufficient dietary intake. Taking a Vitamin D supplement daily, starting before winter darkness sets in may help prevent symptoms of depression.
Make Sleep a Priority
Creating healthy bedtime routines is important if you are feeling blue in the winter. SAD has been associated with sleep problems. Sleep problems are also associated with depressive symptoms. If you are doing what you can to get a good night’s sleep but are still struggling, it is important that you let your doctor know. Sometimes sleep problems can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.