8 Ways to Prevent the Winter Blues Called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
By: Diane Lang
SAD is such a relevant topic right now due to the weather. AS I write this we are expecting another storm in the north east. There are many people who experience a change of moods during the winter months, particularly a feeling of depression and sadness. Typically when the weather gets warmer, these feelings will begin to lessen. If you are feeling under the weather during the cold winter months but not sure if you are having seasonal disorder, you can check to see if you are experiencing certain symptoms related to the disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Symptoms:
1. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiety during the winter months.
2. Feeling fatigue, loss of energy, trouble concentrating and unmotivated.
3. The feelings of sadness, fatigue, isolated, etc. that start out mild and become more severe as the winter progresses.
4. Change in appetite and sleeping habits.
5. Social withdrawal – loss of interest in social activities and hobbies. Some people tend to “hibernate” during the winter months. They don’t leave their house very often during the winter months and they stop socializing and enjoying their daily activities. They start feeling isolated, lonely and depressed. Watch out for this pattern.
“The cause of SAD is still unknown but we know environmental factors play a big role. A person who lives in an area near a lake can get ‘the lake effect’ where he gets so much snow and very little sun all winter, resulting in SAD. We also know that SAD can run in the family – genetics play a role. Seasonal affective disorder is more common in women and we usually see symptoms starting in young adulthood.”
Treatment and How to Prevent
There are different treatment options available for SAD and even ways to help prevent SAD or at least the severity of it:
1. Light Therapy – we know that increased sunlight helps improve the symptoms of seasonal disorder. There are certain lights you can buy called “Light Therapy Box,” which mimic outside light and help you lift your mood and spirits.
2. Psychotherapy – a therapist can help you identify your negative thoughts and behaviors and help change them. A therapist can also help you find good coping skills to feel better.
3. Spend some time outdoors to grab some natural light – take a morning or afternoon walk and take time to sit in the sun to help lift your spirits. Even if the weather is cold and snowy, we do know that being outside in the winter months is beneficial.
4. Exercise – every time we exercise we produce endorphins while reducing stress hormones. This gives us a boost of happiness.
5. Bring the outdoors inside – open up the shades and curtains. Move your desks and chairs near the window to bring the sunlight in doors.
6. Don’t let winter make you feel trapped. Make weekly plans to have fun whether it’s dinner with friends or catching a movie, just make sure to laugh and socialize. Surround yourself with family and friends to give the extra support you need.
7. Plan a vacation where the weather is warm and the sun is shining. If you feel a sense of isolation and loneliness in the winter months, setting up vacation time in warm, sunny spots can help and give you something to look forward to.
8. Meds – Doctors have prescribed anti-depressants that have worked well for some patients that suffer with more severe SAD symptoms.