Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter is a hard time of year and an especially common time of year for SAD or depression.  The days are shorter; often it is dark going into work and then almost dark after as well.  The weather is colder, which makes it more difficult to push yourself to even do the simpler things like grocery and other shopping.  Normally, it seems like much more fun to shop outside when there are sales or at the farmer’s markets as opposed to being inside a place like a bigger department store or the mall, except in winters.

Being outside on sunny days, whether it’s exercising or even just sitting on the porch, makes you have much more energy.  It also makes you feel stronger and less depressed and overall happier.  Oddly enough, SAD is actually pretty common, even though you may not feel like it is.

It’s strange how, when we lived in the cold upper Midwest (South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa), I felt like my SAD was under better control.  That might have been just having gotten used to living in that area for so long and being adjusted to the long winters.  In eastern SD, once it started snowing around November, it seemed like it just stayed cold during the days and nights.  Because of this, every time it snowed, it would just pile up and up and up, until the end of March or even early April.

It’s also strange how we refer to certain areas of different states.  In Virginia, it’s northern, central and southern.  It’s the Shenandoah Valley, the mountains, and the beach.  In SD, it’s east river (east of the Missouri River) and west river.

An important treatment for SAD is bright lights.  Keeping any room that you are in (except the bedroom) brighter can make you feel better.  Sometimes, it’s beneficial to see a counselor for a few months.  It can also be easier to take an antidepressant during the winter.  A supplement such as St. John’s Wort is supposed to help, although studies have shown that it doesn’t work as well as a prescription antidepressant.  There is nothing wrong with taking such a prescription for the 4-6 months that the days are shorter and the weather is cold/ snowy.

It’s important to take care of yourself physically and mentally during the winters.  Joining a gym, exercising at home, or working with a personal trainer is an excellent way to help you feel stronger and more energetic.  Going to a warm coffee shop or restaurant, the theater, and concerts can as well.