Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Logan Close, Centre Helps Intern, Spring 2018

What is S.A.D.?

Seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. is a type of depression that is related to the change in the seasons. It typically occurs in the fall or winter months when the weather gets dreary and cold (those tough days when the sun goes down by 5:00pm, so it feels like it’s already midnight when really you haven’t even eaten dinner) and there is simply a lack of sunlight.

S.A.D. can lead to prolonged sadness or feeling down and can cause a person to have trouble getting through previously normal everyday activities. Even simple tasks that are normally completed without a second thought may feel impossible to start, let alone complete.

Some of the symptoms associated with S.A.D. can include:

1.       Changes in appetite or diet (rapid weight loss or gain);
2.       Feeling drained or low in energy and motivation;
3.       Changes in the way one feels such as depressed mood, low self-esteem, anger outbursts, irritability, hopelessness;
4.       Extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleeping or exercise patterns, decrease in pleasurable activities, reduced sex driv

Tips for preventing symptoms of S.A.D.

1.       Exercise regularly to Increases serotonin, endorphins, and other “feel good” chemicals in the brain

o   Aim for 30-60 minutes every day
o   Can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to get dinner instead of driving, or asking a friend to walk around the block with you

2.       SUNSHINE; Light helps the body produce serotonin (hormone that affects mood) and reduces the production of melatonin (hormone that makes you sleepy).

o   Even if it’s cold outside, just a few minutes of sunshine can go a long way!
o   Open the blinds even when you think you’d rather watch television in the dark. Read a book in the daylight instead of watching Netflix with the blinds closed

3.       Eat healthy foods; Certain foods can boost serotonin levels which can increase your overall feeling of happiness and fight off those feelings of wanting to hit the couch right after eating!

o   Choosing certain foods over others can help fight off the symptoms and give you more energy to do the things. Think about how you feel after eating a healthy omelet vs. how you feel after eating a piece of chocolate cake (or may 3)... I know one of those options makes me need a nap just thinking about!
o   Oatmeal, whole grain bread, brown rice, and bananas and foods rich in Omega-3 such as fresh fish, walnuts, egg yolks, or sprinkle some flax/chia seeds on your yogurt, smoothie or salad for an extra boost!

With the combination of cold weather and limited sunlight, it’s easy to see why the ‘winter blues’ are so common. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t motivate yourself to do your typically enjoyable activities, please speak to someone. It is important to take care of yourself. Relax, take time for yourself, and remember that these dark, dreary days do not last forever.

Need someone to talk to?  Centre Helps counselors are available 24 hours per day.  Call 814-237-5855.



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