For many, winter can be a joyous time. Getting together with family, building snowmen, celebrating the holidays, snuggling up in front of a roaring fire, hitting the slopes…there are a lot of things to love.
But for others, winter can be a difficult time of the year. As days grow shorter and sunshine lessens, many start to feel a serious shift in their mood, affecting how they think, feel, and handle daily activities.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that over 10 million people in the United States suffer each year from winter Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What is SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression that gets triggered by a change in seasons, usually when fall starts. This seasonal depression gets worse in the winter before ending in the spring.
Some people may get a mild version of SAD known as the “winter blues.” It’s normal to feel a little down during colder months. You may be stuck inside, and it gets dark early.
But full SAD goes beyond that — it’s a form of depression. Unlike the winter blues, SAD affects your daily life, including how you feel and think. Fortunately, treatment can help you get through this challenging time.
Once recognized, there are steps you can take to help treat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Here are some great suggestions to consider.
- Light Therapy
Seasonal Affective Disorder is the result of decreased amounts of sunlight, so spending time outside every day, even if it’s cloudy, will naturally help. When winter weather prevents that, invest in a specialized light therapy box that offers the same physical benefits you can get from actual sunlight. However, the more you can get out into nature, the better off you’ll feel.
- Make Time for Exercise
Physical activity is one of the least used methods of managing depression and one of the most effective. Just a few minutes of exercise a day can boost your mood, reduce stress, improve your ability to cope with stress, improve how you feel about yourself, and improve your feelings of motivation.
- Stay Social
Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. It’s easy to seek isolation and withdraw from friends and family when you’re feeling down, but spending time with others can provide much needed support during the winter months.
- Find a New Hobby
Cook, paint, write, draw, craft…it doesn’t matter what you do, what matters is that you do. Engaging in creative activities triggers positive connections in your brain. Throwing yourself into a creative project also provides you with a healthy distraction to focus on.
- Talk to a Professional
Your family doctor or a mental health professional can help you determine the extent of your depression and recommend a course of treatment, such as therapy or the use of antidepressants and other medications.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. It’s more than just suffering through the winter doldrums. If you’re suffering from SAD, reach out for help. There are things you can do, and treatments available, to help you overcome the condition. Stay well.