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Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as seasonal mood disorder or SAD, is a seasonally related major depressive disorder. It’s most commonly connected to the winter months and, in many people, and may be related to lack of Vitamin D due to the loss of sunlight. It’s also thought that the sudden shortening of days messes with the body’s circadian rhythms; these are the biological timings that tell us when to get up and go to bed, governing the release of serotonin and melatonin in the brain.
Women and children are most likely to suffer from it, with 4-6% of people in the USA having major symptoms and nearly 20% of people having more mild symptoms. These symptoms include: feeling sad or anxious, feelings of hopelessness or pessimism, feelings of guilt, irritability, restlessness, fatigue, decreased energy, loss of interest in normal activities, difficulty concentrating, trouble making decisions, memory problems, changes in sleep patterns, changes in weight, and thoughts of death or suicide.
If you are having thoughts of death, suicide, or harming yourself please seek help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255, chat with someone online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by depression or anxiety but don’t feel you are in a crisis and feel guilty calling the number above then please call the National Helpline at 1-8100-662-4357.
Please visit: https://idontmind.com/findhelp for a list of resources that can help.
Just because it’s most prevalent in the winter months doesn’t mean SAD isn’t a serious problem. We’ve put together a list of ways you can beat back the blues this winter and help see the world through a more positive lens!
These products have been known to help people adapt to the loss of sunlight during the winter months, and each provides a slightly different benefit.
Lightboxes – Lightboxes are boxes with lightbulbs that mimic the different wavelengths of light from the sun. Sitting in front of a lightbox for 30 minutes a day helps alleviate SAD symptoms, and many people find they get the greatest benefit in the morning.
Dawn Simulators – Part of the issue with shorter days is how it throws off the body’s natural schedule. We want to be up when the sun is up and down when the sun is down. Getting up at 6 am in the summer when the sun is up is great. Getting up at 6 am in the winter when it’s still dark shocks our system. A Dawn Simulator is an alarm clock that mimics the rising sun with gradually increasing light. It is just as effective as light therapy and can be used in conjunction with it or to replace it.
Keep a Schedule
Make sure that you don’t let the change in weather and sunshine change up your schedule. Try to keep your body on the same routine as much as possible.
It may be cold. The bed may be calling you back to its warmth. It might even be raining, but you need to get outside and get some fresh air, especially if the sun comes out. Nature sessions don’t have to be long or strenuous. Try to get out just for 10 minutes each and every day – even just a couple of minutes between snow flurries will help lift your spirits and refresh your body. And though difficult during COVID times, try to make these moments social moments. Meeting with friends and family, even if only for a few minutes, can also release positive chemicals in the brain.
In the winter months, it gets cold and damp. Put together a special box or basket for yourself of things to get cozy and warm with. Put your favorite movies, a soft blanket, and special slippers in there. Find a special mug that you use only for this time of year and indulge in a cup of hot chocolate. Keep this basket for SAD and use it to lighten your mood with a little self-care during the season.
Take Time for Self Care
In that same vein, take the time to indulge in self-care routines. Epsom salts scented with essential oils will enhance a soothing, mood-boosting bath. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure. Even just a few drops of essential oils can help your body relax.