For many people, winter is a down and depressing time. Often we don’t want to go out and contend with bad roads or cold weather. We end up cooped up in our homes, in the dark, getting lonely. For lots of us, it also means the loss of our usual hobbies and activities that rejuvenate us like hiking, golfing, gardening, and many other outdoor activities. As a result, our mood often takes a downturn and we can get to feeling depressed.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
For others, winters spell the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression that occurs seasonally due to the reduction in exposure to sunlight. Late sunrise and early sunset have many of us going to work in the dark and returning home in the dark. Being covered in pants and long sleeves also reduces the amount of skin that can soak up the vitamin D that sunlight does provide. These variables induce a change in body chemistry that drives this depression. The only upside is that it lifts naturally in the spring and summer months.
If you are looking for some ways to beat the winter blues, here are some ideas that have some science and research behind them.
Despite how the holidays are portrayed on television and in the movies, they often create a lot of stress for people. Research says that 8 out of 10 Americans are expected to feel stressed out by the holidays. Nearly two-thirds of people claim that the holidays create financial stress in their lives. Upwards of 40% report eating unhealthy during the holidays in large part due to stress. Spending time with family and relatives, although enjoyable on one hand, often fuels stress on the other hand as old family dynamics are recreated and played out. Almost 65% of people say that the lack of time to plan and prepare for the holidays is one of the top stressors during the holiday seasons. This year, try to take a proactive approach to keep your stress more manageable and in check. Talk with family members early on to coordinate dates, times, and locations. Start meal planning 2-3 weeks ahead of time so you have plenty of time to shop for food and get supplies. Consider splitting up the meal and have each family member bring a couple of items. This will be much more affordable for everyone and you won’t have to try to prepare and cook so many dishes on the day of. Gift-giving is a wonderful expression of love and appreciation, however, don’t feel obligated to out-do yourself from last year. Talk to family members, set a spending limit that everyone is comfortable with, and consid read more
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs at the same time of year annually. The most common is the winter depression that starts in the fall and goes through to early spring. SAD has only been recognized since 1985 and tends to occur more frequently the further away from the equator people live. People actually diagnosed with SAD is around 5%, but upwards of 20% of people can have some symptoms of SAD. It occurs four times more often in women than men and average age of onset seems be around 23 years old. Symptoms can start out mild at the beginning of the season and worsen as the season goes on.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
A thorough mental health diagnostic evaluation should be sought if you notice the same symptoms come and go away each year in a cyclical pattern for the past two years. 1) depressed (sad or empty) mood most of the day, 2) hopelessness, 3) weight gain, 4) oversleeping, 5) lowered energy level/fatigued, 6) anxiety, 7) social isolation, 8) indecisiveness or lack of concentration, 9) loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities, 10) increased appetite, especially for carbohydrates. Causes of seasonal affective disorder remain unknown however some factors have been implicated. Serotonin levels are known to affect depression and it is believed that reduced s read more