Suffering from SAD?
Gannett Health Services
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Those suffering from the winter blues fall into a depressed mood each year in the fall and continue to feel depressed throughout the winter and into the early spring, when these feelings disappear. The winter blues and its more severe counterpart, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), affects about four times as many women as men. The winter blues are primarily caused by unstable melatonin levels, a hormone produced during sleep, and serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for mood, hunger, and sleep. As the days become shorter and the hours of sunlight decrease, sufferers of the winter blues experience changes in their mood, energy level, and ability to concentrate. Although the winter blues are not as severe as long-term depression,they can change the way a person thinks, reacts, and deals with everyday challenges.
Do You Have the Winter Blues?
If you experience two or more of these symptoms each year in the fall and into the spring you may suffer from the winter blues:
Increased feelings of lethargy
Difficulty waking up in the mornings as the days get shorter
Difficulty concentrating and thinking creatively in comparison to the summer months Incorrectly blaming oneself for things that go wrong
Difficulty performing tasks that normally seem to be easy/enjoyable
Increased craving for carbohydrate-rich food like chocolate and sodas
Ideas to Overcome the Winter Blues
Multiple studies found that the majority of those suffering from the winter blues experienced relief solely from the regular use of "light boxes." Light boxes emit high intensities of light of 2,500 to 10,000 lux (as compared to a normal light fixture that emits 250 to 500 lux) and produce similar effects to the sun's natural rays
Aerobic exercise has proven to help college students combat feeling of the blues in the winter. Not only does aerobic exercise improve mood, but it also has been shown to reduce stress, which often exacerbates feelings of depression brought on by the winter blues.
What we eat and why many people who suffer from the winter blues crave junk food and soft drinks as the days get shorter. The reason they want to indulge in high-sugar foods is because carbohydrates are often effective in increasing serotonin levels in the brain. A better strategy for anyone with the winter blues would be to eat larger portions of complex carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, and healthy simple carbohydrates like fruits and fruit juices during meals, and stay away from unhealthy snacks that will cause momentary relief, but ultimately decrease energy.
Winter blues sufferers should make an effort to expose themselves to sunlight in the early morning. Take a walk outside or lift the curtain in your room as soon as you rise. Also, try to limit sleep to 8-hour periods on a regular schedule. Oversleeping and fluctuation in sleep-wake schedule causes increases in levels of melatonin during sleep, which can contribute to feelings of depression. Set a regular bedtime and wake up at the same time each day. This will give you more energy during the day and reduce feelings of depression.
Some people who suffer from more severe cases of the winter blues might find that anti-depressant medicine, in conjunction with other forms of therapy, assist mood.
Please consult your doctor.
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