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Many of us love to see the signs of fall each year and all the things that go along with it…. crisp air, colorful leaves and fall festivals. But what also goes along with it is the shortening of our daylight hours and that can lead to problems.
Now fall has turned into winter and in addition to the shorter days, the temps have been frigid for some of us making it difficult to get outside.
I knew that dreary, cloudy weather and shorter days affected the way I felt and now I know why. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
Some of the symptoms of SAD are:
- not sleeping well
- feelings of hopelessness
- decreased concentration
In addition to these symptoms, SAD can cause increased appetite and a craving for carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain. I don’t need that; my weight needs to go the opposite direction. As I’m sitting here writing this I’m very tempted to get a dish of ice cream, but I’m trying to psych myself into getting a nice tall glass of water instead and hope the urge goes away. If it doesn’t, no promises!
Why do we get SAD?
SAD is directly related to the amount of sunlight available so the shortening days that come along with our fall and winter seasons is often the trigger. With shorter days, our biological clock is thrown out of whack which can cause an increased production of melatonin and at the same time a drop in serotonin. We’ve all heard about Serotonin as being one of the “feel good” chemicals that so many antidepressants target.
Are you at increased risk?
Most SAD sufferers are women, in fact, 4 times more women suffer from it than men. It’s also more common the further north you go; 7 times more common in Washington State than in Florida. Family history plays a role as well; people with a family history of depression are more likely to develop SAD than people with no family history.
The good news is that you don’t have to tough it out on your own, there are some things you can do to keep SAD away.Do the shorter days of winter make you feel not your usual self? You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. #SAD #depression #sadness #lethargic #insomnia #weightgain Click To Tweet
Treatments for SAD
Light from a very bright full-spectrum fluorescent lamp is used to mimic outdoor light. Exposure to the light results in a positive effect on the brain chemicals that are affected by too little sunlight. Your doctor can recommend the right light box to buy and how long to use it each day. It has a high rate of effectiveness and is used in the privacy of your own home, normally at the beginning of each day.
Antidepressants can be used to treat the symptoms of SAD.
Counseling sessions with a licensed therapist can help you learn healthy ways to cope with SAD by identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors and to manage stress.
Fortunately for me, my SAD is fairly mild and I’m able to manage it myself by doing some common-sense things at home. I make my home as bright and sunny as I can by opening all of my blinds and curtains as soon as the sun rises each day.
On bright sunny days, even if it’s cold I find that sitting on my front porch with my face toward the sun helps me to feel better.
Sitting close to a bright window when I’m working on the computer.
When I’m a passenger in a vehicle on a sunny day I love it when the sun can stream through the car window on my face.
Exercise helps to improve our mood and taking a walk outside can be very beneficial, actually even if it’s cloudy. This one has been difficult for me lately because of the frigid cold.
If you’re suffering from the symptoms listed above, know that you aren’t alone and don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor about treatment!
This information is not intended to provide advice on personal medical matters or to substitute for consultation with a physician. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your physician.
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