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seasonal affective disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder – Why Are You Feeling SAD During Fall and Winter?

As fall leaves change colors, the weather cools, and days shorten, are you feeling sad?  If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, unexplained fatigue, or a generalized lack of interest in activities that you normally engage in, you may be more than sad — you may be experiencing SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Don’t brush your feelings under the rug.  SAD is real and how you feel on a daily basis is important.  Don’t just dismiss your symptoms with “It’ll get better in spring,” or “I can handle this for a couple of months.”

If you think you might be experiencing SAD, first arm yourself with knowledge (below) and take action to help mitigate symptoms and feel better. We’ve got some suggestions on how you can feel better and enjoy this lovely time of year.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Anyone can experience SAD, but the disorder is more common:

  • If you live in areas where winter days are very short or there are big changes in the amount of daylight in different seasons.
  • If you are a woman.
  • If you are between the ages of 15 and 55. (The risk of developing SAD for the first time goes down as you age.)
  • If you have a close relative with SAD.

In most cases, Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer., For some individuals, however, the opposite pattern occurs — with symptoms that begin in spring or summer. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses.

What Are The Symptoms of SAD?

Fall and Winter-onset seasonal affective disorder symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of energy
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
  • Social withdrawal
  • Oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • System wide signs of inflammation

Fall and winter depression is often associated with low cortisol and DHEA levels throughout the day.

What is the typical treatment for seasonal affective disorder?

Dedicate at least 15-20 minutes every day to enjoying the outdoors during the daytime.

  • Take a leisurely walk during your lunch break, 
  • Warm your skin with sunshine while sitting outside and sipping on a cup of tea. 
  • Call a friend and schedule a visit to a nearby park or public garden.
  • Consider moving a chair or your home office near a window to help you receive the benefits of natural light.

Boost your mood!

  • Set up get-togethers with friends or family.  If you can’t or don’t want to visit in-person, use Zoom or some other phone or online technology to connect visually with loved ones.
  • Giving to others is a sure-fire boost to your mood.  Donate to a food bank, or volunteer to serve and help in your community.

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