We live in Ohio where we experience cold, gloomy weather between October and April. It is not unusual to hear people talk about having the “winter blues.” Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is also known as “seasonal depression” or the “winter blues;” SAD is a type of depression caused by the change in seasons. With the change in seasons, we often experience less sun light, colder temperature, cloudiness, and more time spent indoors; all these things can impact your emotions. With SAD, people may experience feeling sad or having a low mood, lack of motivation, low energy, withdraw from social situations, increased eating, and decreased activity.
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So how do you make it through the winter when you are suffering with these symptoms? It is important to recognize what you are experiencing and seek help. Here are some suggestions on seeking help:
1. Talk to your medical doctor.
By talking to your doctor, he/she can check for vitamin/mineral deficits and other medical/biological problems that may be contributing to your symptoms (e.g., low vitamin D, thyroid problems).
2. Seek mental health counseling.
Any time you experience symptoms of depression, it is important to seek help and not ignore what you are feeling. Counseling can help you to breakdown problems that seem overwhelming, recognize and change negative behavior and thought patterns that contribute to symptoms, and learn and practice skills to cope with symptoms and problems.
3. Eat healthy.
We often eat foods loaded with sugar and carbohydrates during the winter, which impacts gut health, weight gain, and other chemical changes in our bodies. By eating a healthy diet, our bodies will get the nourishment it needs to promote positive physical and mental health.
4. Engage in physical activity.
Physical activity is a great way to promote release of endorphins within your body as a way of boosting your mood. While being outside may be a little more challenging during winter months, there are still ways to engage in physical activity that will benefit your physical and mental health; join a gym, try a new exercise class, do some exercises in your home, or get out and take a walk.
Ultimately, remember that what you are experiencing is unique to you and this information cannot replace the recommendations of a doctor who knows you personally and has evaluated your symptoms. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above be sure to seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.
Alysha is a licensed counselor at Arbor Counseling. She provides mental health services for people of all ages, families, and couples. Alysha specializes in working with adolescents and individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She is also a Ph.D. student and professor.