Seasonal affective disorder is no myth – the cold, dark and gloomy fall and winter months lead many people to develop symptoms of depression that even the joyful holiday season can’t help. Inform your community or patients about the realities of seasonal affective disorder and what they can do to face the cold winter months head-on.
How do I know if I have seasonal affective disorder?Seasonal affective disorder is different from depression. Depression is long-lasting, while seasonal affective disorder only occurs at a certain time of the year (usually in the winter). The following symptoms often build up slowly in the late fall and winter months:
- Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is common with other types of depression)
- Increased sleep (too little sleep is common with other types of depression)
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Sluggish movements
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 800-273-8255
What can I do about it?Keeping your mind and body strong is an important part of managing the winter blues. There are things you can do at home to manage your symptoms:
- Stay hydrated: Aim for about eight glasses of water each day.
- Eat whether you’re hungry or not: Eat three to five small meals per day.
- Sleep: Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to function at their best.
- Exercise is a good way to let out stress: Do some moderately and regularly for at least 30 minutes a day (unless there is a medical reason for you not to).
- Quiet time: Take some time every day to quiet your mind, be still and in the moment.
- Practice some form of self-relaxation every day: Deep breathing, meditation, yoga, stretching, positive visualization, a warm bath or shower, soothing music, prayer, etc.
- Connect with others: Talk to people, write to loved ones and think about positive experiences you’ve had in the past or plan to have in the future.
- Find meaning and purpose in what you do, whether it be helping others, fighting for a just and worthy cause, learning a new skill, etc.
- Avoid excessive alcohol use, illegal drug use, prescription drug abuse and smoking.
- Prevent small problems from becoming big ones by getting regular checkups. Getting checked out when something doesn’t feel right isn’t weak – it’s smart.
It’s important to see a mental health professional if your emotions affect your everyday life. From antidepressants to light therapy, you will get the tools you need to make it through these difficult months.