Posted on December 27, 2023 in 2024 January, Lifestyle and Wellness

Seasonal Affective Disorder

by admin

While the colder months can usher in a number of things many of us enjoy — holiday cheer, new fashions and flavors, and the embracement of all things cozy — for others it can bring a case of the “winter blues.” And while that concept might be dismissed by some, it’s a very real (and in some cases, a very serious) experience for others.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is brought on during certain seasons of the year — typically fall and winter. (If you live in a warmer climate, you might experience SAD in the summer.) According to Cleveland Clinic, about 5% of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, typically starting between 18 and 30 years of age, and it most often affects women.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While there’s no clear cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder, the shorter, darker days are believed to trigger a chemical change in the brain that is linked to the depression symptoms experienced. Like most things, the symptoms of SAD can vary in different people. Some of the most common symptoms experienced include increased sleep, withdrawing from socializing, and brain fog.

Symptoms of SAD

Like most things, the symptoms of SAD can vary in different people. Some of the most common symptoms experienced include:

  • Increased sleep, including daytime drowsiness (did you know the sleep-related hormone, Melatonin, is naturally produced more in the body when it’s dark?*)
  • Withdrawing from socializing with others
  • Heightened irritability and anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog or difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Feelings of guilt or a sense of hopelessness
  • Low energy levels and losing interest in activities typically enjoyed

Ways to treat or prevent SAD

There are a number of steps you can take when trying to ward off SAD, including recommendations worth implementing year-round. To help alleviate symptoms:

  • Exercise regularly (at least three times a week for 30 minutes). It will help you combat stress and anxiety, while also boosting endorphins.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. This can be difficult with all the holiday festivities that occur in the fall and winter months, and it’s why building healthy food habits year-round is crucial. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can give you much needed energy. Get enough rest and try to stick with a sleep routine to help regulate your internal clock (which in turn helps to regulate your hormones and mood).
  • Manage stress and enlist the help of a counselor or therapist if needed.
  • Get outside and enjoy the daylight whenever possible (even if it’s cloudy!).
  • Do activities you typically enjoy — whether that’s seeing friends, arts and crafts, going to the movies, playing sports, listening to music, or gardening.
  • DON’T try to make any big decisions or life changes (marriage, divorce, quitting your job) until the SAD has lifted and you can consider the life transitions objectively.
  • DON’T isolate yourself. Even if you don’t feel like going out to social events, be sure to reach out to friends or loved ones regularly.
  • DON’T rely on alcohol or take unprescribed medications as these can worsen your symptoms.

As always, remember that you’re not alone, and it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional if your symptoms are severe. Other treatments, including possible medications, may help prevent future episodes.