Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is tied to the changes of seasons. It is most common during the winter when there is less light. Some people have dubbed it, winter depression.
If you experience a feeling of “down” that begins and ends at the same time every year – you may have SAD. Typically, symptoms start in the Fall or early Winter and then begin to dissipate, as the days get longer in the Spring.
• 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 takes 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, workworking or playing a musical instrument.
- Sit by a sunny window during the day.
- 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.
- 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