Words on Wellness
Winter Wellness: Understanding the Impact of Seasonal Affective Disorder
By Kimberly Hayes (guest writer)
Does your energy wane during the months of winter? Many people face a decline in their overall outlook when the seasons bring cold temperatures and short daylight cycles. Thankfully, if you seem to experience the “winter blues,” there are ways to combat the condition.
Identifying Seasonal Affective Disorder
At first, depression linked to winter was thought to be a rare condition, but a reporter stepped out in 1981 to explain her personal seasonal struggles. As the Chicago Tribune explains, thousands of people responded with similar concerns, and soon seasonal affective disorder (aka SAD) was identified as a mental health concern.
Who Suffers from SAD?
Seasonal affective disorder affects millions of people every year, and the farther you are from the equator, the more likely you are to have SAD. The symptoms relating to the condition are reasonably consistent and typically develop during fall, and ebb in spring. People suffering from SAD can experience a low, depressed mood and lose interest in doing normal activities. They also often have poor self-esteem, stress, anxiety, irritability, and ongoing fatigue.
Energize Your Days
There are steps you can take to help manage SAD and the doldrums of winter. Boost your energy levels by spending time with friends, getting outdoors, and enjoying as much sunlight as possible. Take your dog for a walk, or lounge on a park bench to feed the birds. To avoid lethargy, tend to your gut health by eating a balanced, nutritious diet so your body has the materials it needs to make energy. If you’re feeling stressed, spend some time in meditation to quiet your mind and body, or do some journaling to help process thoughts and emotions. Learn some deep-breathing exercises, a technique that is often effective in reducing anxiety and depression, and helping to focus your energy and attention on positive and productive things.
Adjust Your Environment
We like to think of our homes as a retreat from the rest of the world, but you might be surprised to find your home could be negatively contributing to your situation. Examine your living environment for ways it could be revamped to help you feel better. If you’re feeling fatigued, add brighter lights and check the temperatures in your home to ensure they promote productivity. Bring some plants into spaces where you spend time, as having some greenery can reduce stress and promote a positive outlook. Along those same lines, the colors in the rooms where you spend a lot of time could be part of the problem. Certain tones can make you feel more vibrant, such as reds and yellows, while some are soothing, like blues and greens.
Participate in Therapy
If you take action and still are unable to alleviate the winter blues, or if you experience deep depression, it’s important to reach out to a medical professional or counselor for help. A doctor can determine if you are suffering from seasonal affective disorder or another health condition. There are three primary courses of professional therapy for SAD: behavioral therapy, prescription medication, and light therapy, any of which could be prescribed to help you. Behavioral therapy involves looking at your thought patterns and finding healthy ways to help you cope with your struggles. There are also medications that might be prescribed to help you, such as antidepressants. With light therapy, you would be prescribed a special light therapy box, which you would spend time next to each day.
SAD and Suicide
Some people who suffer from SAD occasionally become suicidal. Note that if you are thinking of hurting yourself, or you fear someone you love might be suicidal, it’s crucial to reach out for assistance immediately. In the US, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, and in Canada, call a suicide hotline in your region.
If you’re experiencing the wintertime blues, there is no reason for you to suffer. Adjust your lifestyle and habits to help you feel better, or reach out for help. Next time winter comes around, the season can be brighter, happier, and healthier for you.
Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns.
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