Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
We are in the midst of winter and that can be a hard time for many individuals. The PNW, with its persistent rain and gray skies, can sometimes feel dreary. Shorter daylight hours and minimal sunlight can negatively impact our circadian rhythm, leaving us feeling out of sync and could interfere with our daily schedule. We may find it more difficult to get out of bed in the morning, or we may find ourselves going to bed a lot earlier than we would like. Perhaps we aren’t getting out of the house as much as we would like, and maybe even experiencing a sense of “cabin fever”.
For some, the symptoms start to interfere with daily functioning and cause impairment in multiple areas of life. These symptoms can include:
-Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
-Thoughts of suicide
-Hypersomnia or a tendency to oversleep
-A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
-A drop in energy level
-Decreased physical activity
-Increased sensitivity to social rejection
-Avoiding social situations
Here are a few recommendations that may help manage these symptoms:
1) Light therapy. Typically, light therapy takes between 30 and 60 minutes each day and involves using either a light box or a light visor to help mimic sunlight. Research shows that by using light therapy, it may help restore your circadian rhythm, help balance serotonin levels, increase alertness, and reestablish consistent sleep patterns.
2) Spending time outdoors. Start an outdoor exercise routine, go on a nature walk, or visit a local park with a journal, a good book, or maybe a cup of coffee! Getting outdoors will help even if the sun is not beating down on you, just being out during daylight can have a significant positive impact on daily moods and energy levels.
3) Vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about how much vitamin D they would recommend for you to supplement during winter months. Research is still exploring the link between vitamin D and depression, but studies show that lower levels of vitamin D can negatively impact mood.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and you are wondering if it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder, reach out to a clinician to discuss your concerns. Here at 253 Therapy and Consult, we can help you determine if what you are experiencing could be SAD.
Embracing winter can be tough! Give yourself grace. If you find that you aren't being as productive, if you aren't being as social, or if you don't have quite the same energy levels as you do during other seasons—practice acceptance. Perhaps now is the season to reflect, to nourish your body, and to practice self-care. Be easy on yourself and allow time for relaxation. And as always, we are here for you! If you are struggling during these winter months, please reach out and schedule a free consultation today.