Here we go again – the season of short days, less sunlight and confinement indoors. It is the season when the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) appear. For some people the holidays may delay the onset of SAD, also called “winter blues”. People afflicted with SAD see Christmas as a time when joyfulness is required, but it takes a great deal of energy.
The Mayo Clinic defines SAD as “a type of depression that occurs the same time every year….symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”
Several family members and I are vulnerable to SAD. The change back to Central Standard Time in early November is one event that can trigger SAD, with the sun setting around 4:45 pm. For those in the Eastern Time Zone, the sun rises as late as 8 am in December, which can make getting out of bed more difficult.
Symptoms of SAD include the following:
– Depression – Social withdrawal
– Hopelessness – Oversleeping
– Anxiety – Weight gain
– Loss of energy – Difficulty concentrating
– Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs – Losing interest in enjoyable activities
– Appetite changes
The good news is that there are a number of things that each of us can do to help prevent or reduce the affects of SAD. The following tips are courtesy of the Mayo Clinic:
- Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
- Get outside. Take a long walk and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help, especially within two hours of getting up in the morning.
- Exercise regularly. Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
More serious symptoms may be addressed by light therapy, medications and/or psychotherapy. Your personal or family physician should be consulted. ECFA Counseling Center may be able to assist in addressing SAD symptoms with brief-term therapy. Call us at 630 653-6400 to schedule an appointment.
Meditating on the spiritual (original) meaning of Christmas can also be helpful. Set aside some time each day to re-read the story of Jesus’ birth. Immersing oneself in the “glad tidings of great joy” can help SAD-vulnerable people keep things in perspective.
David Lundberg, MSW, LSW Counseling Supervisor
For more information visit http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/seasonal-affective-disorder