Let’s talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder.
I notice I am feeling a little more down or blue at this time of the year. What should I do?
It’s that time of the year again when the light changes…and you start to feel just a little blue.
It isn’t just you. Almost 20-40% of adults experience something called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) each year. Shorter days, colder weather, darker days in the northern hemisphere can affect our body’s sleep-wake clock. Some people experience mood changes in the fall/winter and feel better in the spring/summer. Other people do in the spring/summer.
Some signs you might have SAD are: increased or decreased ability to sleep, decreased energy or fatigue, anxiety, decreased motivation, less desire to see people or be around people, and sad mood. These symptoms happen at the same time that seasons change. It can be diagnosed as SAD if it happens every year for at least two years in a row. SAD is more than the winter blues. If someone has SAD, they could use extra support to get better (Read more about SAD here) . Whether you experience SAD or the winter blues, read on for some tips on how to help.
SIX TIPS FOR FIGHTING SEASONAL BLUES
1. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CHANGE. We can’t change what others do, but we can focus on what we can do to reduce our own anxiety.
2. GET ENOUGH SLEEP and create a routine. Be consistent with wake up time and bedtime (Target 7-8 hours per night), avoid screens an hour before bedtime, and create a wind down routine in the evening.
3. KEEP A SCHEDULE. Stick to a schedule whether or not you are leaving the house. Shower and get dressed every day, follow regular meal patterns, and create separation between working and resting time.
4. USE A BRIGHT LIGHT. Use a commercial light box, happy light, or SAD light. Boxes with at least 10,000 lux of light can improve seasonal changes in mood. Sit to the side of it for 20-30 minutes in the morning. Some also offer alarm clock options to remind you of the sun rising. Use it consistently and still try to get outside for 30 minutes a day. The morning is the best time for a walk or for using the light box.
5. DO SOMETHING EVERY DAY. Fight the desire to do nothing at all. Many experts recommend this technique called behavioral activation. Basically, when someone starts doing more things they eventually feel better. When people do more positive things, their mood improves.
6. TAKE BREAKS. Take breaks from your day when you need it. Getting outside is very important for getting more sunlight (even if it is a cloudy day). It is also good to take work and life breaks by doing simple things that help to create fun in the day.
We hope these six tips help you to fight some of the blues of the season. If you are feeling worse and trying new strategies is not working, we encourage you to seek help. Medications like antidepressants can also be extremely effective in treating symptoms and helping to prevent relapse of depressive symptoms if appropriate.
Stay Safe. Stay well.
Those Nerdy Girls
Please note: If you are in need of immediate assistance in the U.S., please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; Hearing Support: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Information on SAD
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