Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends around the same time every year. Usually SAD occurs at the beginning of fall and continues throughout the winter months, draining you of energy and making you moody. However, SAD can also occur throughout the spring or early summer. Anyone can become SAD, but it is often more common in women, people who live far from the equator, people between ages 15 and 55, and people who have a close relative with SAD.
What causes SAD?
Experts are not sure what exactly causes SAD, but they believe that it is caused by lack of sunlight. Lack of light may affect your “biological clock” which controls your sleep-wake pattern. Furthermore, the lack of sunlight can affect serotonin and melatonin levels, which are brain chemicals that affect mood and sleep patterns.
What are the symptoms?
(Please do not self-diagnose.You may have watched every season of Grey’s Anatomy, but, please, leave it to the medical professionals.)
- Feeling depressed most of the day, every day
- Loss of interest in your usual activities
- Having little to no energy
- Having trouble with sleep
- Experiencing change in appetite
- Gaining/losing weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, anxious, guilty, thoughts of suicide
It is normal for people to have good or bad days, but if you feel like you have more bad days than good, see your doctor. Symptoms of SAD should not be brushed off to the side, especially if you feel hopeless or have thoughts of suicide. Seek medical attention! It is better to get checked out by a medical professional to put your mind at ease.
Here are 5 helpful tips to try if the Winter months are getting to you:
1. Get moving.
Exercise is the best way to restore your energy and get you feeling 100% yourself again. Try a new form of exercise, such as yoga or tai chi. You might just have found your new hobby. (You’re welcome!)
2. Two words. FRESH. AIR.
Take a long walk, eat lunch outside, go to the park and soak up the sun! Even on the cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can be very helpful.
3. Vitamin D.
Whether it’s soaking up the sun or taking a gummy or pill supplement, vitamin D will get you through the cold, sunless winter months.
4. Surround yourself with the people you love.
Good company is important! Surround yourself with positive energy; friends and family who will motivate and encourage you to do fun activities, take trips or simply make you laugh.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy; sometimes all we need is someone to talk to. Talking to a medical professional about your daily struggles, such as life, relationships, and goals can benefit you immensely. Before seeking therapy, speak to your doctor about other treatments and what will benefit you the most.