Combating the Winter Blues
During the winter months, as many as one in five Americans may suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD.” Also referred to as “winter depression,” SAD is a condition that is linked to fewer daylight hours. Symptoms can include headaches, excessive sleeping, overeating, lack of interest in regular activities, insomnia, sadness, and general irritability. These symptoms generally disappear with the return of longer daylight hours.
Although the exact cause is not known, many believe the disorder is related to a change in serotonin, a brain chemical that impacts moods.
What Can You Do If You Have SAD?
- Brighten up your home by opening blinds or curtains and trimming trees that block the sun.
- Get into your warm clothes and out for a walk, especially on sunny days.
- Keep up your regular exercise – it helps relieve stress and anxiety, which can deepen SAD.
- Use light therapy. Special light boxes use fluorescent lights that are brighter than indoor lights. You can sit in front of the light box while you read, eat breakfast, or work at a computer -- from 30 minutes up to two hours a day. The length of time you will need depends on the strength of the light and what your doctor recommends.
What If That’s Not Helping?
Talk to your doctor if your symptoms increase or become problematic. Your doctor may suggest counseling or using an antidepressant medicine.
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