While love may be in the air with Valentine’s Day, the cold wintery days with little to no sun can be difficult to handle for many. These winter days that are short and dark can lead many people begin to experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD.
“This mood disorder is linked to seasonal changes in light and is marked by periods of depression, fatigue, poor eating habits, mood swings and social avoidance. These symptoms typically begin during the late fall, as the daylight hours shorten, and continue through the winter months as we begin to see more gray skies, less sunlight and cold weather that keeps people indoors,” says Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Andrea Cutler, APRN, from HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital Outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic.
HSHS St. Anthony’s supports the following tips provided by American Psychiatric Association to help overcome SAD this winter.
• Get outside: Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
• Light up your life: Whether the forecast is sunny or cloudy, open the blinds or drapes throughout the house. Being able to look outside and take in natural light can provide an instant boost to your spirits.
• Watch what you eat: Avoid foods that are high in sugar or fat and limit alcohol consumption. Instead eat protein, vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates for a nutritional energy boost.
• Practice stress management: Learn techniques to manage your stress better. Unmanaged stress can lead to depression, overeating or other unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.
• Surround yourself with your favorite people: Friends and family can provide warmth, strength and stimulation to keep you feeling positive through the winter months.
Cutler shared, “Due to the cyclical nature of Seasonal Affective Disorder, patients have the ability to implement protective factors, both environmental and pharmacological, to help mitigate seasonal mood shifts. I would encourage patients to speak with their health care provider about an individualized plan to address these symptoms.”
If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, please consult your physician. For more information about SAD please refer to: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder