If you find that once the days start to become shorter you start to feel blah, lethargic, and moody, you might be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) — and you aren’t alone. Many people experience mood changes once Daylight Savings Time comes around, but there is help if you need it.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder
According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal affective disorder “is a type of depression that’s related to changes in the season.” You can pretty much track it by the calendar as it starts and stops at about the same time each year. If you or a loved one are affected by the disorder, you will notice a change in your mood sometime during the fall that will last throughout the winter months. You may find yourself feeling moody, depressed, and as if you have a lack of energy.
About 3% of the population suffers from SAD which is a biochemical imbalance in a person’s hypothalamus gland. This is caused by a lack of daylight due to shorter days and more clouds and less sunshine.
If you suffer from SAD, you may find that you crave more sleep and are hungry for carbs. In actuality, your brain is telling you to hibernate as your body tries to conserve energy until spring. You may even notice a reduction in your sex drive.
One difference between SAD and typical depression is that when you suffer from SAD you may not actually feel sad. Instead, it is more about having a lack of energy. It is important to note that if you live in an area that has a longer winter, think north of the Mason-Dixon line, you are more likely to suffer from SAD.
Tips for Dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Just because you or a senior adult in your life suffers from SAD doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to combat it.
- Check in with your doctor – If you haven’t had a diagnosis, you should talk to your doctor about how you are feeling, so he or she can make sure you are suffering from SAD and not something else.
- Buy a SAD lamp – A SAD lamp will help provide the sunlight that you are missing. One Columbia University study showed that 75 percent of participants who used a SAD lamp for thirty minutes a day had great improvement in their symptoms.
- Go outside – While it is true that winter weather can keep you inside, you should try to go outside as much as possible, especially on sunny days. Even a twenty-minute walk in the sun will help. The goal here is to get as much natural sunlight exposure as possible.
- Spend time socializing – You may not feel like doing anything or socializing at all, but spending time with loved ones and friends can go a long way to making you feel better. Go out for coffee or have a friend over for dinner.
If you or a loved one is suffering from the winter blues don’t ignore it. Go see your doctor and take steps to bring the sun back into your life. You will feel better and the winter won’t seem quite as bleak.
Do you or a loved one struggle with SAD? How have you coped? What’s helped you to feel better during the winter months? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.