Updated: Dec 1, 2019
Are you feeling worn out or low energy? Are you wanting to--or totally do!--devour that pie you were planning to bring to the holiday party? Are you finding yourself regularly “holed up," bingeing on Netflix even when you have stuff to do? Are you noticing the colder weather to be an excuse—but is this typical for you when the season changes and it gets dark at 5:00?
The winter doldrums can indeed be a part of living in higher latitudes; we are biological beings, after all, and the lack of sunlight and reduced activity often as a result of the shorter days and colder, wintery weather, can put a damper on our mood and energy levels.
There are tons of ways to adapt to these changes, and prevention is the name of the game. The best bet is to notice historically how you’ve reacted in the past winters, and put in place ways to change up your routine so you’re able to stave off some of those triggers and get moving, motivated and happier during these darker days. Check out my video on some hacks for battling those winter doldrums.
While it is normal to feel down or lower energy some days, if it starts affecting your daily life in a negative way, it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD is a mental health condition that is on a spectrum related to the “doldrums” but has more significant symptoms and often requires treatment. SAD can be mild or severe—causing feelings that can mimic depression or anxiety. The key to distinguish SAD from other mental health conditions is that it is seasonal—most people with SAD have “winter SAD,” (though there is “spring and summer SAD”). Winter SAD comes on as a result of the changes of daylight and remits when the daylight returns.
Symptoms can include (you could have one or more):
--Low interest in activities
--Low energy or feeling sluggish
--Disrupted sleep, often sleeping too much or having insomnia
--Increased or erratic appetite, with cravings especially for carbohydrates
--Feeling depressed most of the day, almost every day
These symptoms can even become severe to affect every day coping, causing inability to go to work or manage daily life, or contribute to feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of suicide. (If you or someone you know is suicidal, contact your 24 hour crisis line immediately, txt CONNECT to 741741, or call 911.) Folks who get SAD often have a higher incidence of depression in their families, as well as an increased chance of having depression or bipolar disorder.
Thankfully, SAD is treatable—a combination of psychotropic medication, light therapy and psychotherapy, as well as lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and planned sleep schedules all are shown to have great benefit in relieving the symptoms of SAD. There is no need to suffer any more, as help is out there. If you or someone you know needs, help, reach out today.
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