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When the Winter Blues Makes You SAD, and How to Cope

When the Winter Blues Makes You SAD, and How to Cope

When the weather gets cold, we turn inward, seeking comfort foods and warm blankets. But we miss out on sunlight, leading to a lack of vitamin D. This can make you SAD.

But what does SAD mean?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that is linked to the change of seasons. The Mayo Clinic points out it can start in the Fall and continue until Spring, since there is less sunlight and the temperature has dropped in most of the United States.

CNN notes SAD symptoms are low energy, fatigue, little interest in once-enjoyed activities, sadness, fluctuations in appetite and sleep, having difficulty concentrating or feeling worthless, and withdrawing from friends and family. Serotonin, our feel-good neurotransmitter that affects mood, varies each season and may be low if you’re suffering from SAD.

According to Psychology Today, people can recognize and keep track of their lower moods by keeping a journal, as the days get darker and shorter in the winter. You may not even notice you are feeling the effects of SAD until you realize you’ve been craving carbs, not sleeping well, withdrawing from friends, and feeling irritable.

Many people suffer from SAD, but don’t talk to their health care providers. People can feel somewhat worse in the winter months than they do in the Spring through Fall, so they don’t take it as seriously, they just try to cope.

And during the pandemic, as we enter into another year of dealing with it, and now that it’s Winter, many people are doubly feeling the effects of SAD, especially once Daylight Savings Time rolled around.

The “saddest” day of the year, called Blue Monday, typically falls on the third Monday of January, but this usually isn’t the only day people can feel blue during the winter.

It’s not just the winter blues, however, and there are ways to help yourself feel better until Spring arrives. 

TIME Magazine mentions that it can be hard to “feel normal,” many of us have been stuck inside a lot for over two years, as well as a cold winter, little sunlight throwing off the body’s natural rhythms, and not seeing friends. Being cooped up and not feeling well are not fun.

So how to treat SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder treatments, like exercising outside (even though it’s cold, you should try it!), connecting with friends and family, and improving your diets with more fruits and vegetables and lean proteins. Antidepressants, Vitamin D, speaking with a mental health professional and walking outside during daylight hours can help.

 TIME also mentions getting enough sleep along with a well-balanced diet can help

Caitlin E. Innerfield, MD, of ReclaimAbility Pain Services in New Jersey says that one of the methods to treat SAD that has shown to be beneficial is light therapy, which mimics actual daylight. There are many to choose from, and your doctor should be able to recommend one that is best for your needs. “We do recommend regular exercise,” says Dr. Innerfield, “because the endorphins assist with mood that can become depressed with the cold and dark weather.”

Being aware that SAD can filter through your everyday life, you can now recognize the symptoms and how to treat them, and feel better as you await sunnier days.