If you ever feel like the winter is getting you down and your winter blues are in full effect, you are not alone! Commonly known as the ‘winter blues’, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Between 4 and 6% of American suffer from SAD and another 10 to 20% may experience it in a milder form. SAD is 4 times more likely to occur with women than with men.
In a nutshell, SAD and the ‘winter blues’ makes people with ‘normal’ mental health experience depressive symptoms at a specific time each year – most often winter.
Common SAD symptoms include:
- low mood for most of the day.
- loss of interest in your usual activities.
- drowsiness and low energy (lethargy).
- fatigue, irritability, and severe mood swings.
- Irregular sleep patterns (too much and/or too little)
- eating more than usual, especially craving sugar and carbohydrates, leading to weight gain.
- loss of interest in things you normally enjoy doing.
- intrusive or disturbing thoughts.
How can you combat the fierce symptoms and side effects of the winter blues and SAD?
GET SOME LIGHT:
Light helps the body produce serotonin (hormone that affects mood) and reduces the production of melatonin (hormone that makes you sleepy).
Starting with natural light is best, even though it’s not easy. If the sun happens to be peeking out from the clouds, try and get outside for a nice walk. With winter’s shorter days, try to get outside as much as possible to exercise, draw open those blinds and choose weekend activities that embrace the great outdoors!
EXERCISE AND DIET
Surprise, surprise, our old friends come to the rescue once again. It’s clear that exercise and eating well are key in keeping the blues at bay, so be sure to exercise regularly. Consulting with a dietician, nutrition coach and personal trainer can hold you accountable to your exercise and health aspirations. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.
GET SOME VITAMIN D
When exposure to sunlight is low, your body makes less Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency affects nearly HALF of the world population. If your diet is decent and there’s only one supplement you’re taking, it should probably be Vitamin D during these upcoming months.
Overall, if you aren’t getting enough sunlight in the winter, consider picking up some Vitamin D!
Above all, take care of yourself and your winter blues! Be sure to get enough rest, and take the time to relax. Participate in an exercise program or engage in another form of regular physical activity. Get outside when you can. Make healthy choices for meals and snacks when possible. Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or health professional if you feel you’re having a tough time.