In a previous post (What Do YOU Have to be Depressed About?), I mentioned a depressive disorder called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. Most commonly, it begins in the late fall and continues through the winter months. Less often, it causes depression in the spring or early summer months. Symptoms include depression, anxiety, loss of energy, social withdrawal, oversleeping, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, appetite changes (especially a craving for carbs), weight gain, and difficulty concentrating. Many people (including myself!) brush off the feeling as a case of the “winter blues” or just a “cold weather funk”, but it could be more than that. If you feel down for days at a time and you can’t seem to get motivated to do the activities you normally enjoy, you may want to consider seeing a doctor.
The causes of SAD are unknown, but there are some factors that may contribute to it. The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may disrupt your body’s internal clock which lets you know when to sleep and when to be awake. Reduced sunlight can also cause a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) and that may trigger depression. Also, the change in season can disrupt the balance of melatonin in your body which plays a role in sleep patterns and moods. It is diagnosed more in females and the further you live from the equator, the more prevalent it is. As with all depression, if there is a family history, you may be more likely to have it. Treatment for SAD may include light therapy, medication and psychotherapy, but there are some lifestyle changes you can make as a place to start.
Make your environment sunnier and brighter…open blinds, trim trees that block sunlight.
Get outside…take a walk, eat lunch at a nearby park or simply sit outside in the sunlight.
Exercise regularly…physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.
Eat a healthy diet…focus on protein and limit your carbs and sugar that will eventually make you feel even more lethargic.
I’m following my own advice for once. I’m getting out of town for the kids’ spring break. I’m heading south for more sunlight, warmer temperatures, and long walks. And when I get back, March Sadness will hopefully be far behind me and April will be the start of happy months to come! Do you battle the winter blues? What works for you?
Just living is not enough... one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower. ~Hans Christian Anderson