The “Winter Blues” are Coming: Preparing for Seasonal Affective Disorder

woman in scarf and hat walking in the snow

SAD is a form of clinical depression that occurs seasonally.

Winter blues.

No doubt, you’re familiar with that expression. It’s that dreary feeling that settles in with the start of the colder seasons.

Come autumn and winter, you may notice that you’re increasingly anxious, melancholy, and even depressed.

However, if your symptoms are severe and interfere with your functioning well in daily life, you may not just be suffering from the winter blues. It could actually be something more serious – a condition commonly called SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. *

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a form of clinical depression that occurs seasonally. It is caused by a biochemical imbalance – a dip in serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates such things as appetite, memory, mood, and sleep. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, sluggishness, insomnia, irritability, agitation, lack of appetite or overeating, difficulty concentrating, and loss of interest in activities.

Overall, about 2 percent of Americans suffer from this condition. Though, in some states, the percentage may be higher. For example, up to 10 percent of those living in Alaska deal with SAD. But don’t imagine just because you live in Houston, Texas, you’re exempt. While southern states may not have as drastic changes in seasons as northern ones, SAD can affect you wherever you live.

Your best protection is thinking ahead and preparing to take good care of yourself.

How to Prepare for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Stick with your routines – Keep up your everyday activities. You may feel like hibernating, but staying consistent with routines, including hobbies, will help you to stay balanced.

Guard your health – Get adequate food, water, and sleep. Take vitamins to help build up your immunity. And ditch the sugar! It isn’t just bad for your physical health, but also for your mental well-being and your ability to tolerate stress. Instead, opt for eating well-balanced meals with good sources of protein and fiber.

If you fear you may be suffering from SAD or other forms of depression, take our depression quiz.

Stay active and exercise – Exercise improves mood and overall well-being because it releases dopamine and endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals. In fact, for some, exercise can be as helpful as therapy or anti-depressants.

Soak up natural light – Open the curtains, open the windows – let light in. This is especially beneficial in the mornings when your body needs it most. Brave the cold and go for a walk outside; it combines natural light and physical activity.

Keep the fun in your life – Find substitutes for the summer activities you’ve enjoyed. Develop a new passion, a new hobby, or take a break from work and head south for a vacation. Also, consider adding some color to your house – a few bright accent pillows, a painting, or a bright bouquet of flowers on the table.

Socialize often – Don’t isolate yourself. Isolation only contributes to feelings of depression. Get out and surround yourself with family and friends, or ask them to keep you company at home.

Depression Counseling for Seasonal Affective Disorder

If your SAD symptoms are simply unmanageable, it’s time to get professional help. Perhaps depression counseling in Houston is a good choice for you.

In general, you first would have to undergo a complete physical and mental examination to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms. Then, your doctor may recommend various approaches.

Depression counseling could include talk therapy to help you handle negative thoughts and cope with stress. But your doctor may also prescribe anti-depressants along with this therapy.

Often, though, they will recommend phototherapy, a form of light therapy. The light emitted by a “light box” helps you to feel happier and healthier. It stimulates your brain to increase serotonin and decreases the production of melatonin, a hormone that keeps you asleep. Light therapy can affect a positive mood shift in just a few days.

* Note: SAD is officially referred to as Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern.

To learn more about how depression counseling can help you, click here or contact a counselor at Eddins Counseling Group. To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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