The holidays bring with them their very own set of unique stressors including increased spending, socialization and travel. However, for some, holiday stress can be confused with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression also known as SAD. While holiday stress can result in frayed nerves and short tempers, SAD spans months and has different enabling factors such as decreased daylight hours and colder temperatures. SAD can result in minor to disabling depression that can last the entire winter season.
What is SAD?
Typically experienced during the winter months, SAD usually dissipates with the onset of spring. The severity of symptoms varies for those with SAD but often will interfere with personal relationships and daily activities. Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest, weight gain, a change in sleeping patterns and in severe cases suicidal thoughts. SAD is a form of depression with the only major difference being the seasonal pattern of symptoms. If you have experienced a seasonal pattern of one or more of these symptoms you could have SAD.
Thankfully, there are ways to manage seasonal affective disorder and get through the winter. Consider the tips below to manage SAD. If you find your depression too difficult to manage on your own remember that Barbour Community Health Association has behavioral and mental health professionals that specialize in helping patients struggling with depression and SAD.
1. Eat a balanced diet – Balance is important. Remember to include plenty of fruits and vegetables into your diet this time of the year and keep sugar, unhealthy fats and excess carbohydrates to a minimum. Your body will thank you and so will your mental health.
2. Socialize – You may not feel like being social while experiencing some SAD symptoms, but spending time with your friends, family and even pets can help elevate your mood. Playing board games, going out to dinner or having a family movie night are several ways you can engage in social activities. Try to discuss your feelings with those who care about you so they can better understand SAD and how it affects you.
3. Be active – Exercise and physical activity can lessen the impact SAD symptoms. Try to participate in group fitness classes at the Belington Wellness Center or make a walking pact with your friends. It is easy to confine yourself to your home all winter so try to spend time outdoors when the weather permits.
4. Spend time in the daylight – Sitting next to a sunny window or by walking outside it is important to experience the daylight. Sunlight exposure is essential and it is the lack of exposure that can cause SAD or worsen your symptoms.
5. Make an appointment – At Barbour Community Health Association we have an experienced team of behavioral health professionals that can help you manage your SAD symptoms and how best to treat your specific situation. Call 304-823-4000 to schedule an appointment.