The holidays are often viewed as a joyous time spent with loved ones. When it feels like you should have every reason to feel happy, feeling the opposite way can be confusing and even discouraging. However, it is common to also feel more down than usual as the seasons begin to change.
What is SAD?
SAD is the acronym for “seasonal affective disorder,” which is a type of depression that is directly related to the changing of the seasons. Typically, individuals with SAD experience symptoms such as oversleeping, changes in appetite, and weight gain. SAD often causes individuals to feel lethargic or lower in energy than usual despite sleeping more.
In most cases, individuals living with SAD report first experiencing symptoms in late fall or at the beginning of winter. Then, they report the dissipation of these symptoms as days become longer and sunnier in the spring and summer months. Although it is less common, some individuals report experiencing symptoms of SAD during the spring and summer months. Some symptoms that are unique to spring/ summer SAD are insomnia or trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, weight loss, and increased feelings of anxiety and irritability. In both cases of fall/ winter SAD and spring/ summer SAD, it is common for symptoms to start out mild and then become more severe as time passes.
Some causes of SAD may include the impact of less sunlight on sleep cycles, a drop in serotonin levels that could also be connected to less sunlight, and the disruption of melatonin levels.
How to overcome SAD
Although the exact causes of SAD are unknown, steps can be taken to overcome these seasonal blues. Some possible tools that can be used to mitigate the effects of SAD include implementing a routine, exercising regularly, and speaking to a doctor.
Implementing a routine ensures that individuals living with SAD sleep and eat regularly, which can help mitigate the effects of SAD on weight gain and sleep cycles. Outdoor exercise is one of the most effective ways to overcome symptoms of SAD. It naturally exposes individuals living with SAD to sunlight and can help offset the weight gain typical with SAD. Lastly, speaking with a doctor can be an essential step to overcoming SAD. It is important to seek the help of a healthcare provider if you feel down for multiple days at a time or lack the motivation to do activities that you would typically enjoy. A doctor can determine if you are experiencing SAD or another more severe form of depression.
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Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, December 14). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
Orenstein , B. W., & Pugle, M. (2021, October 6). 14 ways to ease seasonal depression. EverydayHealth.com. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/treatment/ways-to-ease-seasonal-depression/