Healthy Solstice: Seasonal Affective Disorder


While many people thrive through the winter seasons between the holidays and the abundance of winter activities, but thousands of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

SAD is a specific type of depression that is linked to the changing of the seasons, according to the Mayo Clinic. While most SAD sufferers experience this in Autumn and Winter, a smaller portion experience the same struggles in Spring and Summer with different symptoms. Fall and Winter SAD is linked to appetite changes and weight gain, tiredness and oversleeping, and low energy. Spring and Summer SAD, on the other hand, is tied to poor appetite and weight loss, insomnia, and increased anxiety.

SAD Signs & Symptoms

  • Losing interest in activities you normally enjoy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep behaviors
  • Feeling sluggish, agitated, and having low energy
  • Having difficulty concentrating or experiencing a brain fog feeling
  • Feeling depressed, hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Thoughts of suicide or death should be addressed immediately by a health professional

How to Ease SAD

  • Prepare you mind in the fall! Engage in your favorite activities and events that make you feel good as well as making plans for the winter so you have something to look forward to. You can even be proactive by discussing your past experiences with your health care provider beforehand.
  • Prioritize social activities! Social isolation and depression are related, as we have learned throughout the pandemic and resulting quarantine. So, being among friends can help you combat SAD and you can even get creative with your social outings by doing things specific to the season like ice skating or caroling.
  • Take a vacation or even a staycation! Breaking up the monotony of a work schedule by taking time to relax or going on a trip can do wonders for your mental health!
  • Keep moving! The more physical activities you participate in, the better! Time outdoors, with that natural light therapy, is especially effective, but if the cold air keeps you in doors you can do yoga or invest in a treadmill.
  • Light therapy is a common treatment to help ease SAD. While light therapy boxes are not regulated by the FDA and therefore should be discussed with your Doctor, using the light box within the first hour after you wake up is a common treatment, according to Everyday Health.
  • Another alternative to light therapy for those with mild cases of SAD are dawn simulators. These alarm clocks wake you up gradually with increasing light intensity, like the sun, rather than with loud music or beeps.
  • Aromatherapy and essential oils can also help! Some oils can possibly influence the area of the brain that controls one’s internal clock and may therefore help SAD
  • Speaking of one’s internal clock… stay on a schedule! The more you can keep your body regulated, the better chance you have of fighting these winter blues

Remember, Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. So, December 21st is a milestone of sorts! After Solstice, the days will gradually get longer and the nights will get shorter again! Another something to look forward to and celebrate.

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