As the days get darker and colder, most of us start missing the sun and start dreading the cold. We want to stay in the warmth of our beds. We feel like we're getting up in the dead of the night because of how dark it is at 7 o'clock, and just want to go back to sleep. We feel down and we long for the warmth and sunshine to be back.
"Winter blues" are familiar feelings to most of us living in cold countries, but some of us get hit much harder by the change in seasons than others. Where some of us want to stay in bed and enjoy the warmth, others feel that getting out of bed is nearly impossible. Where some of us miss the sunlight, others feel crippled by the lack of it, unable to properly eat, sleep, work or even maintain relationships. When you start to fall in the autumn season and find getting back up extremely difficult before spring arrives, you might be facing a more serious condition: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
SAD, as its acronym implies, is a mood disorder characterized by extreme low mood that comes with the change in season. It is brought on by biological factors such as the change in circadian rhythm and in serotonin and melatonin, which affects how our mood is regulated. A dip in serotonin in the winter season is linked to depressive mood.
Signs to look out for are:
- Overeating and oversleeping
- Feeling down or depressed all day nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Isolating yourself from friends and family
- Having difficulty focusing or performing at work or home
- Feeling constant fatigue
- Feeling hopeless
- Having suicidal thoughts
If you think you may be suffering from more than the usual winter blues, it is important to talk to a psychologist. They will help you figure out what is going on and teach you the tools to overcome SAD.
There is a range of treatments, from more exposure to sunlight to therapy. Here are some things you can already do to alleviate the symptoms of SAD and get you on track.
- Maintain a regular sleep and meal schedule
- Eat healthy food and avoid overindulging in simple carbs such as sweets or starchy food
- Continue to exercise throughout the winter months
- Avoid staying in alone and meet with friends and family regularly
- Get as much sunlight as you can, even if it is artificial through light therapy
- Get therapy sessions and possibly medication if treatment requires it.
I hope this article can help you get on the right track with your winter mental health. As demotivating as the darkened days are, it is important to stay healthy to give yourself a fighting chance against depressive mood. If you relate to any of the symptoms of SAD above, feel free to contact me and we can discuss a treatment plan that works for you. You don't have to go through it alone.