The winter season is often delivered with an upbeat, hopeful and exuberant tone due to the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year via TV, radio, newspaper, tweets, and Facebook posts – you name it. But, the winter season doesn’t always feel hopeful or bright for a lot of people. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can have a major impact on many people and with another 20% of the population even experiencing minor symptoms of SAD.
Some people have dubbed SAD as winter depression since it typically occurs during the winter season with those living in localities of colder weather with shorter days and less sunlight. It impacts women more often than men, with a common onset after the age of 20. It’s also highly treatable.
You may have SAD if you experience a feeling of “down in the dumps” that begins in the Fall or early Winter and then starts to dissipate in the Spring as the weather becomes warmer and the days get longer.
• Sad – depressed – hopeless
• Agitation or Irritability
• Low energy
• Problems getting along with other people
• Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
• Increased craving for carbohydrates or sugary foods
• Weight gain
Although these symptoms fade with the arrival of longer and warmer days, Seasonal Affective Disorder take its toll with strained relationships, weight gain and feeling out of shape.
The exact cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is unknown although Mayo Clinic cites the following:
• Your biological clock is off – also called your circadian rhythm. The decrease in sunlight can disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
• Serotonin levels. Less light can cause a drop in Serotonin that triggers depression. Serotonin is an important brain chemical that impacts mood.
• Melatonin levels. The winter season can negatively impact the balance of the body’s level of melatonin – that plays an important role in regulating sleep and mood.
Common treatment for SAD may include light therapy, talking to a therapist and/or medication from your doctor.
It’s always best to talk to your doctor about treatment options.
- Participate in outdoor winter activities: ice skating, skiing, snowshoe or sledding.
- Discover an indoor hobby by yourself or with a loved one that is fitting for cold winter evenings: reading, board games, card games, puzzles, knitting, drawing, or playing a musical instrument.
- Sit by a sunny window during the day.
- Join a Prayer Group or Bible Study at your local parish.
- Make dates to meet friends/family out for coffee, bingo, dining or a movie.
- Plan a regular game night with family or friends.
- Schedule a winter vacation to a sunny spot.
- Make time for a regular treat at a local spa for a massage, facial, skin treatment or manicure.
- Focus on your evening self-care with a warm (not hot) bubble bath and an application of your favorite smelling lotion afterwards.
- Head to the gym — even 30 minutes of exercise releases endorphins and neurotransmitters that create a feeling of euphoria.
- Limit alcohol — it’s a depressant.
- Catch up on some spiritual reading. View selections at Store
- Read a book with uplifting messages – here are some possibilities:
- Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
- Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant
- The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide
- The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
- 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino
- Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo
- All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
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