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Don’t let winter get you down

Published in Mental Health, For the Health of It Author: Diane Reller, MS, LMFT, LADC

Do you feel like hibernating in the winter? Do the short days make you sluggish and depressed? You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons predominantly in the fall and spring. Symptoms may include:

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Heavy, "leaden" feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

Try these ideas:

  1. Increase the natural light in your home. You also may want to purchase a special lamp that simulates daylight.
  2. Exercise outdoors. Even if the sun isn’t shining, taking a walk in the morning or at noon has been shown to help people affected by SAD. Exercise has been proven to help relieve stress and anxiety.
  3. Ask your primary care provider about adding Vitamin D to your diet.
  4. Find seasonal activities that you enjoy. Try snowshoeing or cross country skiing. If it’s too cold outside, start a new hobby. Take painting or dancing class. Join a book club.
  5. Get out of your house and socialize.
  6. Go on vacation to a sunny destination. Planning your trip will give you something to look forward to and the sunshine will help bring you out of hibernation.

When to seek help

It's normal to have days when you are down. But if you feel depressed for days at a time and you don’t want to do activities that you normally enjoy, see your health care provider. This is especially important if you feel hopeless or think about suicide.