Battling the winter blues: How to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder
If the name sounds clinical, it’s for good reason. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be downright debilitating. The onset is typically in fall, as days grow shorter and colder. Symptoms are wide-ranging from mild blahs to more serious uh-ohs.
Here’s what to look for:
- Low energy
- Increased fatigue
- Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Changes in appetite, such as eating more or unusual cravings
- Sleeping more than usual
- Restless pacing, etc.
- Slowed movements or speech
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of worthlessness/hopelessness
- Feelings of sadness/depression
- Thoughts of or even attempts at suicide
The good news is you don’t have to take it laying down. There are things you can do to help avoid SAD symptoms. Please, please note: if you have thoughts of suicide, contact someone immediately. Scroll down this page now for a list suicide prevention resources.
- Exercise your way out of it. Experts recommend low-impact aerobic activities, including walking, yoga, jogging/running, swimming and strength training.
- Keep in touch. You may not feel like it, but staying engaged with your social circle will help boost your mood.
- Make a schedule and stick to it. Sleep is a problem for many experience SAD–often in the form of too much. Set your alarm and avoid sleeping your daylight hours away.
- Watch your alcohol intake. We all know alcohol is a depressant. Don’t add too much fuel to the situation by overindulging.
- Turn on your bright light. Artificial lights work. In fact, bright light therapy is a go-to treatment for SAD, widely used by medical professionals. You’ll need a light therapy box and 20-30 minutes of out of your day to spend in front of it. The Mayo Clinic recommends using it in the morning, soon after waking up.
- Get your vitamin D. Studies show people affected by SAD have lower levels of vitamin D. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of supplements, but you can incorporate vitamin D-rich foods, such as canned tuna, salmon, mushrooms and egg yolks.
Still can’t shake the blues?
It’s time to call in the professionals. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. You may need medication, such as antidepressants, or need a referral to a mental health professional.
What to do if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts.
For some, SAD can cause thoughts of suicide. Pick up the phone immediately. Here are a list of resources provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
- 24/7 Crisis Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network
1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Veterans, press 1)
- Crisis Text Line
Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
- Veterans Crisis Line
Send a text to 838255
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline