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Sluggish energy. Excessive sleep. Anxiousness, weight gain and depression. There’s a reason that SAD is short for Seasonal Affective Disorder. But these “Wintertime Blues” do more than just put a damper on your mood. The shorter days, colder months, and lack of sunshine can lead to a serious disorder that affects your health and the health of those around you. The good news is there are ways to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), meaning you can get through those dreary months with a forecast that’s mostly warm and fuzzy on the inside.
To beat SAD, you must first understand why we develop it. Some experts believe that the switch in seasons disrupts important hormones in our body like Serotonin and Melatonin. That makes a lot of sense because these hormones regulate things that are directly tied to your sleep, mood, and overall well-being. Be on the lookout for symptoms like extreme sluggishness, overheating, sudden weight gain, sleepiness, and constant carbohydrate cravings.
According to Dr. Jill Hersh, Clinical Psychologist at SCL Health's Saint Joseph Hospital, Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs in up to 3 percent of the general population; those with depression or bipolar are much more likely to struggle with symptoms. People can also experience subclinical symptoms which we can see in the wider population.” Dr. Hersh gives the example of healthcare workers often arriving to work and leaving in the darkness, as well as being inside the majority of the day. But on the brighter side, adds that “this is one of life’s curve balls but with a little creativity, we can still thrive this winter, not just survive.”
This winter, prevention and relief for Seasonal Affective Disorder is something we can all practice. Light therapy is one common method. Simply go outside, take a walk, and let whatever sun rays are out there nourish your body. Dr. Hersh recommends at least 10 minutes per day, with sun exposure during mid-morning and midday having the most benefit. This might not be easy for everyone, especially those who reside way up North. In that case consider purchasing artificial lights for your home. Other tips to live by include a regular supplement of Vitamin D, a healthy diet that’s low in fat and sugar, and a weekly routine of aerobic exercise to release endorphins and ease your anxiety. Of course if symptoms do become difficult to manage, medications and counseling are always an option. Just talk to your doctor at SCL Health.