Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder might be the official mental health title, but many of us simply know it as the winter blues.  While the medical classification of this seasonal pattern has changed over the years, the recognition of this depressed mood has become more common.  It appears that its prevalence ranges from 1.4% in Florida to 9.9% in Alaska.

As Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years have all passed, winter is beginning to hit hard and maybe you have begun to recognize some of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

– Difficulty waking up in the morning
– Nausea
– Tendency to oversleep and overeat, especially having a craving for carbohydrates
– A lack of energy
– Difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks
– Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities
– Decreased sex drive

snow med 300x199 Seasonal Affective DisorderAs we struggle with the change in sleep patterns, inactivity due to the weather, and hormonal fluctuation due to less sunlight, it becomes much more appealing to stay indoors rather than drive through the cold to meet up with friends. Emotionally, it can become difficult when our schedules are controlled by the weather. So, how do we break out of the pattern of winter hibernation and isolation when it is so appealing? Here are a few ways for us to intentionally combat the emotional struggles that come along with the winter season.

  • Exercise! Exercise increases serotonin levels, helping us to feel excited and motivated. While it’s hard to get up the energy to go out to the gym on a cold night, families can unite during these times. Put in a game on the Wii or do a fun workout video in your living room, together. This approach is good for a few laughs as well.
  • Engage together at home. While it may feel like a chore to go out, bring the activities home. Playing board games together, baking, reading, watching a movie, or playing charades can be fun to do together without having to make the commitment to go out.
  • Build in time to relax too. Celebrate reading a book and having hot chocolate. Light a candle and listen to relaxing music. Take a bubble bath. Intentionally planning relaxing time rather than just isolating yourself can be a healthy way to combat the negative feelings associated with winter.
  • Be productive. When it is not appealing to be outdoors, take advantage of getting household tasks done. Celebrate completing goals, even completing household chores.
  • Intentionally plan outings. Winter introduces many activities such as sledding, skiing, etc. Go out to the movies, to a museum, or a play. Then, reward yourself later with some relaxation time.

The winter months can be long. They can feel exhausting. But, there are some practical things to boost our mood during these times. What are some ways you have found to combat with winter blahs or seasonal humbugs?