The Winter Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a term we hear often, particularly in the north where the winter brings long nights, short days, and minimal opportunities to be outside. What is SAD, really? It is a reaction to a lower amount of sunlight that produces symptoms similar to depression. These can include lack of energy, increased fatigue, increased or decreased appetite, loss of interest in activities, feeling sluggish (particularly in the afternoon), unhappiness, and social withdrawal/isolation. Typically with SAD these symptoms begin in late fall/early winter and will start to subside as the days grow longer in the spring.
It may be difficult to distinguish SAD from other forms of mood disorders, including depression. If you are struggling to identify if you have SAD versus depression, discussing your history and symptoms with a healthcare professional can help.
What can you do to manage SAD symptoms? If you are struggling with some (or all) of these symptoms, self-care and a healthy approach to life are key factors to your success. This includes regular exercise, a diet that is rich in vegetables, protein and vitamin D, minimizing caffeine and stimulant intake, regular social contact, and getting as much exposure to sunlight as possible, especially in the morning and early afternoon hours. If this is not possible for you on a regular basis, some people will purchase a light therapy unit for their personal use. Before embarking on this path, however, it is recommended that you discuss this option with your physician, as light therapy has potential side effects and must be used appropriately. In some cases, individuals will use anti-depressant medication to manage their symptoms.
If you would like to learn more about SAD, the following resources are available:
U.S. National Library of Medicine
You can also contact HUM to speak with a healthcare professional about SAD or other struggles you may be having. We promote health and well-being along biological, psychological, social, and spiritual lines. You can reach us at 403-536-2480. Do not let the winter blues get you down!
Paige Abbott, M.Sc., R.Psych.