I’ve got the Winter Blues!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! This season is filled with family-filled holidays, good times, and good treats, right? It’s safe to say that sometimes this assessment can be wrong. Some people feel the complete opposite about the winter season. Winter time can bring about a serious change in mood when the seasons change. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or more commonly known as SAD, is a mood disorder found in individuals who are otherwise mentally healthy but experience symptoms of depression when the seasons change. This depression is brought on by the short days due to a lack of sunlight and colder temperatures. It is also more common in women and those who reside in the northern states.
The most common symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder are feelings of irritability, emptiness, and sadness. Individuals often report cravings of starchy foods, weight gain, little to no energy, sleeping too much, and depression to name a few. What can you do to eliminate those cravings, depressive symptoms, and feelings of “blah?” First, contact your healthcare provider to make sure this is the correct diagnosis. Symptoms vary from patient to patient. Most women know their bodies and know when something is not right. You want to be sure it is diagnosed correctly and have access to treatment options. Next, your healthcare provider may place you on an anti-depressant to help change your moods. Most physicians that I have worked with in the past have prescribed treatment options that range from outdoor therapy to light therapy. Light therapy consists of treating the patient with artificial light for minutes at a time. Remember that SAD forms when there is a lack of sunlight. Sunlight contains Vitamin D which helps boost your mood and emotional health. Most people who suffer from depression have some sort of Vitamin D deficiency. Also note that everything is not for everybody. Treatment options are based on the individual’s needs alone. Talk therapy is another way to reduce or eliminate symptoms of SAD. There are recovery groups for individuals suffering from SAD that openly talk and listen to one another about their Seasonal Affective Disorder experiences. These groups are facilitated by a trained mental health clinician and it works wonders! Listed below are ways to reduce or eliminate symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.
- Talk, talk, talk! Talk with a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional at least once a week. It’s also a good idea to join a recovery group for people with SAD. This form of therapy alleviates stress and de-clutters the mind.
- Affirm and confirm positive statements. This could be a motivational quote or an inspirational bible verse. I would often encourage my clients to write their favorite quotes on sticky notes and place them on mirrors, favorite coffee mugs, refrigerators, etc. This helped many of my clients with those “empty feelings” and negative thoughts.
- Go on a mini-vacation. Studies show that light therapy is a key component to alleviating and eliminating symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Go ahead and book that flight to Miami for the weekend or plan a cruise to your favorite tropical paradise. This will definitely give you a break from the cold for a spell and put you into a sun-filled tranquil spirit. Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen. We know what too much sun can do! If a trip can’t be accommodated right now, open those curtains and blinds. In other words, let the sunshine in!
- Meditate. Any form of meditation is a good form of therapy. Whether you practice Christianity or Buddhism, meditation is a great way to relax, relate, and release. Meditation has proven to be a great source of calmness and strength for those suffering from SAD.
If you recognize any of the aforementioned symptoms in yourself or a loved one, please seek the proper help.
*Disclaimer*: This article is not intended to diagnose. It is solely intended to educate and inform. Please see your primary physician or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment options catered to the needs of the individual.