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Conquering the Winter Blues



December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month

It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, right? So why do so many feel down or depressed? It could be SAD.


SAD is seasonal affective disorder and affects 5% of Americans every winter (fall-spring). With signs and symptoms very similar to regular depression, it usually lasts about 5 months and comes back every year during winter months.


Don't be too quick to self-diagnose though... most people are mildly affected by longer nights/less daylight, the stress of holiday preparations, increased time indoors and cold temperatures. These are typical winter blues. Here are a few clues you could have full-fledged seasonal depression:

  • Low energy

  • Sadness

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Changes in appetite

  • Different sleep patterns

  • Fuzzy thinking or poor concentration

  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

  • Thoughts of death or suicide


The shortage of sunshine is typically the trigger for SAD. This affects your body's internal clock and hormones making you feel sleepy when it's time to be alert and active.


FACT: Women are about 2 to 4 times as likely to experience SAD as men.


How To Conquer SAD

Look for clues listed above and speak to your doctor. It could take a couple of years to note symptoms, so if you've noticed them in the past be sure to mention it.


Stay active. If your thoughts lead you to want to watch Netflix, try moving around the house (e.g., cleaning, organizing, self-care, playing with a pet, etc...), walking the dog or hitting the gym instead. Disrupt those thought patterns to remain idle and do the opposite to combat those urges to lounge.


Stay social and resist the urge to hibernate. Make plans, visit family or friends, join a club, take a walk. These are natural antidepressants!


Talk to your doctor. SAD can be serious. Here are treatment option to discuss with your physician to find what works best for you.

  • Bright light therapy

  • Medication

  • Talk therapy

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy


If you're feeling unusually down during the winter months, downright depressed or notice yourself struggling to get through each day, talk to your doctor. Your mental health matters, YOU matter. You don't have to suffer, it is possible to brighten your mood :)



Sources:

Where you live and SAD: Yale School of Medicine (n.d.). “Winter Depression Research Clinic”

Optum Health Could you have seasonal affective disorder?

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