Do you feel sad or hopeless, notice your sleep patterns changing, withdraw from social activities, or lack energy or focus during the winter? Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a pattern of depression in which someone is depressed only during a certain season. It’s certainly no surprise that you could be depressed – gloomy weather and holiday stress are no fun – but sometimes the problem runs deeper than everyday anxiety. It’s believed that SAD’s cause is a lack of light. In the winter, the days are shorter and the clouds often cover the sun even when it’s up. More than just looking depressing, this can actually mess with your sleep patterns and even your serotonin, a hormone that affects mood. Couple that with normal winter stressors, and you’ve got a big problem.
So what can you do? If you want to avoid SAD, one of the best things you can do is to get as much full-spectrum light as you can. If you live in an area where there’s no sun this time of year, you might want to invest in a full-spectrum lightbulb and use it for a couple of hours in your day. If you can get sun – even just for 10 minutes on your break – do it. If you can take a short walk in the sunlight, even better, since exercise also helps boost your mood. Some people suggest taking Vitamin D supplements during the months where you can’t get it from sunlight – it hasn’t been proven to work, but it’s good for you even so. If you choose to take Vitamin supplements we recommend that you consult with a doctor first.
Unfortunately, prevention doesn’t work if you don’t know about it, or don’t use it, so maybe you’re already caught in the throes of SAD. Fortunately, there are options for you. The preventatives listed above – sunlight or full-spectrum light, exercise, and vitamin supplements – can all be curatives, too. If your depression is getting serious, you might want to talk to a therapist. Even if you think it will pass by spring, it still needs to be taken seriously. And of course, if you need to talk to someone, you can always call us.