The holidays are approaching quickly but so are the long dark days of winter.
For many, this darkness creates havoc on mood and motivation as depression sets in and seasonal affective disorder takes over.
SAD is real and typically occurs when summer comes to an end and the fall season begins. Many notice a downward spiral on cold, damp days and an improvement with the sun.
Typical symptoms include low mood, higher anxiety, sadness, feelings similar to grief, the desire to sleep a lot, as well as a loss of motivation and joy.
When the weather changes and people feel the warmth and brightness of the sun, these symptoms often dissipate and people report better mood, higher motivation and overall feeling more happy.
It can happen at any age and affects women more than men, however men are not immune.
People commonly complain of SAD especially after moving from a southern sunny climate to a darker, more northern climate. It is usually the reason people become "snowbirds," wintering in warm environments.
Treatment is varied and involves recognizing SAD early to be prepared.
First, remember to find the light! There are a number of "happy" lights that involve using bulbs or boxes to mimic the brightness of a bright sunny day. The light registers through the eyes to the pineal gland in the brain in order to ward off the winter blues.
Use this light daily for maximum benefit. Put it on the counter, the table or the desk and enjoy the benefits through the fall and winter.
Second, seek help before the depression becomes too much. Some people need an antidepressant medication or natural alternatives such as 5HTP, SAMe or St. John’s Wort until the spring to help them through.
Consider counseling and find ways to motivate yourself when it is cold, dark and raining outside and exercise or social gatherings seem like a chore.
Third, get vitamin D testing. Research shows that levels less than 30 ng/ml are too low and for many, proper vitamin D levels help with SAD.
Fourth, consider a vacation to a sunny spot. Plan a weekend getaway to the warmth, plan business travel to coincide with the winter, and break the monotony of the gray days. Even a few days in the sun can restore a depressed mood if caused by the weather and can fuel someone on until the spring.
Fifth, use what light there is and be active during the day. Sit near a window, walk outside at lunch, and exercise in a well-lit area. Take full advantage of sunny days and get outside.
1) Seasonal Affective Disorder. Web. 11 November, 2012.
2) Direct health care costs of treating seasonal affective disorder: a comparison of light therapy and fluoxetine. Web. 11 November, 2012.
Reviewed November 12, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith