Don’t Be SAD This Winter

Written By: Ali Zamzow, UWSP Undergraduate Intern

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that comes and goes, literally, with the seasons. Typically, SAD impacts people during the winter months when there is less sunlight and it is colder outside. Although, these depressive episodes can also occur during the summertime, but this is much less common.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is not to be confused with depression that worsens during the winter, rather SAD consistently occurs only during a certain season. To be diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, people must meet the criteria of Major Depression for two or more years during the same season, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Questions to ask yourself, this winter have I been:

–       Feeling sad or depressed most days

–       Feeling sluggish or having low energy

–       Having troubles sleeping

–       Experiencing changes in appetite or weight

–       Craving carbohydrates

–       Socially withdrawing

–       Experiencing restlessness

–       experiencing a decrease in my sex drive

–       Having thoughts of suicide

 Treatments and Therapies for SAD:

If you’re saying to yourself, okay, this sounds like me, there are some things to do to combat feeling SAD this winter. Talk to your doctor about starting medication, more specifically, an antidepressant to control the swings of depression that come with the changing of seasons.

Go to therapy to find and practice coping strategies when these negative feelings and thoughts start up again. Therapy can be helpful to find new ways to look at old situations or feelings we may have. If you are someone who hates winter, dreads the cold and snow, how do we change that and look at winter differently? Some advice I have heard is changing our relationship with the snow and cold. Here was the question I was asked: Who loves winter and the snow? I thought people who participate in winter activities like: snowboarding, down-hill skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, snowmobiling, ice skating, etc. So, finding a winter activity you enjoy could give you something to look forward to this winter, instead of dreading it.

With the decrease of light in the winter, a huge way to combat that is to do light therapy. Essentially, it is getting a light box and sitting in front of it for 20-60 minutes a day to get the exposure your body needs to light. You can find these boxes online and they are relatively low cost. Also, Vitamin D supplements have been used to treat SAD as a way to make up for the lack of sunlight during the winter months.

Other things you can do to feel better this winter might include getting active and working out, eating healthy, trying to eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day, and getting outside, in the sun, even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day.

If you feel like Seasonal Affective Disorder is something you have or currently do struggle with, ask your doctor about steps you can take to alleviate these symptoms and not feel so sad this winter.

To read more about SAD, or for other helpful links:

 https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.shtml

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline