How Do I Win the Battle Against Winter Blues?
Imagine opening the curtains on a winter morning, seeing nothing but a sea of twinkling white snow coating the earth. At first, the sight is peaceful, perhaps even nostalgic—that is, until you step out into sub-zero temperatures to scoop your piled-high driveway, the car windshield is next-level iced over and you can’t quite tell if the snowplows have come by your neighborhood roads yet.
Unfortunately, the coldest seasons don’t just bring poor weather, they can also manifest negative emotions in your life.
What’s the scientific explanation for my “winter blues?”
The psychologically accurate and fittingly named term is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD inflicts general sadness, sleep pattern changes, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness, dread or guilt onto its victims. SAD is a close relative with depression, as they share many symptoms, but a good rule of thumb to differentiate between the two is remembering that depression is year-round, while SAD only visits during the changing of the seasons. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for—whether in yourself or a loved one who may be living with SAD—are oversleeping, withdrawing socially or increased irritability.
Does seasonal depression affect everyone?
SAD wreaks havoc on ten million Americans per year, with women—specifically young adults—getting the worst of it. Additionally, the farther you are from the equator, the shorter your days will be in winter—thus, you’re more at risk to be struck with SAD. It’s also crucial to keep an eye out for SAD in seniors, since some folks may attribute symptoms like brain fog, loss of interest in activities and restlessness to cognitive decline. However, as we age, precise and accurate care becomes much more important.
What are simplest fixes to get rid of these frumpy feelings?
While antidepressants or light therapy—sitting near a “light box” of 10,000 lux of light—are options to cure SAD, you don’t need to visit a doctor or purchase a $30 desktop tool to feel better. Easy (and free) ways to combat SAD include bundling up and going for walks, drinking your favorite warm beverages, spending time with loved ones, or testing out a new hobby or mentally stimulating activity. However, the best treatment is spending time outside or close to a window on sunny winter days—natural daylight gives you a healthy dose of vitamin D and uplifting feelings that might make your SAD feel a little less dark.
Everyone has good and bad days, but when the bad days start to outnumber the good ones, consider seeing a therapist or professional who can help you let the light back into your life. Life’s beauty transcends the seasons—you deserve to feel empowered to live joyfully, age gratefully no matter the time of year!
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