Winter Blues: Battling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you have what you consider to be "winter blues," you may actually have a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). With SAD, you get symptoms of depression and loneliness at the same time every year, usually in the winter. Instead of just dealing with SAD, there are ways to combat it to make your seasonal disorder more bearable.

Symptoms of SAD

*   Depression
*   Loneliness
*   Anxiety and Increased Levels of Stress
*   Social Withdrawal
*   Loss of Energy
*   Change in Appetite
*   Weight Loss or Gain
*   Difficulty Concentrating

The Causes of SAD

Though the cause of this disorder is unknown, it can be due to a multitude of reasons from mental health conditions, genetics or a chance in your serotonin or melatonin levels. If you have experienced the symptoms of SAD, you will most likely repeat the occurrence every year around the same time.

Treatment and Surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you suffer from depression and anxiety outside of SAD, you should continue taking your prescribed medications regularly and discuss with your doctor if a higher dose is necessary. If not, there are several ways to help survive this miserable season of SAD and live a brighter, happier life.

Routine – Sticking to a routine is vital during the times you are suffering from SAD. Go about your day the way you normally would. Get up in the morning, shower, get dressed. Eat your breakfast and go to work or school. Stick to your routines, and make new ones during this time if necessary. Force yourself to do these things, even though you don’t want to get out of bed.

Support and Interaction – Don’t be afraid to share your disorder with people you trust. Lean on your most supportive friends and family and interact with people every day. You need to get out there and spend time with your friends. Seek support from a professional if you need to, there is no shame in it!

Diet and Exercise – Sticking to a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is more important than ever before. When you exercise you release endorphins that make you happy, not to mention the multitude of benefits that food has for you. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables and legumes all have vitamins and minerals that can alter your mood in a healthy, positive way.

Fresh Air – You need the fresh air! Your body needs it, your mind needs it. Even if it’s cold outside, you will still be getting that mandatory fresh air. Breathe it in, spend at least a few minutes every day outside inhaling the oxygen.

Adequate Sleep and Rest – Your body and mind need to rest on a regular basis and you need sleep! But don’t overdo it, you don’t want to spend 16 hours straight in bed. Set your alarm so you get a solid 8 or 9 hours of sleep then go about your day. Take frequent rests and breaks throughout the day.

Leisure Time – Take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy. Watch your favorite movies, ride your bike, go shopping, learn a new craft or hobby. Do whatever you can for yourself. The holidays especially can be extremely stressful, but taking time out for yourself every day can alleviate some of that stress, thus helping you cope with SAD.

What to Avoid

Alcohol – Alcohol is a depressant, or downer. You are already struggling with feeling depressed and blue during this season, why add to it? Keep your drinks to a bare minimum, or skipping them altogether would be even better for you.

High Levels of Sugar – Sugar may give you a quick boost in energy, but it fades fast leaving you feeling even more drained and down than you did before. The phrase "sugar crash" exists for this very reason. Once the "high" from sugar wears off, you feel lazy and despondent. Get your vitamins and minerals from more natural sources of nutrition.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real condition that affects real people every year. It can make the winter season miserable, especially when you are trying to be cheerful and in the holiday spirit. The most important thing is to stick to your daily routines, even when you feel like you could sleep for three months straight. You aren’t suffering from it alone, and there is hope for you.

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