Seasonal Affective Disorder: The Winter Blues

Winter is here again, with it brings colder temperatures, shorter days, longer nights and for many, seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder also known as the “winter blues.” According to the National Institute of mental health (NIMH), millions of adults may suffer from SAD, and many may not know it. You may be asking, what causes SAD? Research from NIMH suggest that many factors may contribute, such as a reduction in serotonin production which is controlled by sunlight and helps regulate mood. If there are fewer hours of daylight or a person spends fewer hours outside, they may have a much lower level of serotonin than in the summer. People who struggle with SAD may at the same time may also produce more melatonin with can cause sleepiness. Awesome…talk about a 1, 2 punch.

It's common for me to ask every client, whether I've been seeing them for years or they are brand new, how do you experience the winter? That question alone is extremely helpful to get a sense of what's come, a preview of coming attractions, so to speak. I like to ask that question and start the conversation in September. A person can begin to feel depressed most of the day, struggle with time change and darkness in the early evening and/ or lose interest in activities. They may also experience changes in sleep; either sleeping to much or too little and experience a decrease in their energy level. Additionally, they may experience difficulty concentrating, feel like hibernating and begin to isolate from their families and communities. At its most difficult, people can feel hopeless or have thoughts of death or suicide.

Here we are in February, and if you’re not feeling like yourself, and the picture painted above rings true for you, fear not, you are not alone. There are many things you can do to help turn around how you’re feeling today!

Thankfully, SAD is very treatable and can be diagnosed by any medical or mental health professional who can help you develop a plan of action. I like to talk to my clients about small ways they can affect positive change in both their mindset and setting (their environment) to start feeling better. Let’s talk about setting first. There are some easy things to do if you’re struggling, to enhance your environment to reduce SAD’s impact. Try putting timers on your lights, chances are, if you have a light turned on when you come home from work, you’re less likely to feel drained walking in the door than if