Are You SAD? What Are The Winter Blues?
Another day of arctic temperatures, stuck in the house, curtains closed, lights on and the television blaring in the background. This is the daily living situation in Wisconsin in the dead of winter. It is that time of the season that cabin fever tends to settle into my life. As I look around at the inside of my home, my mind wanders, introducing thoughts of why I am stuck. What about this picture resonates? Every year at this point of winter, the light goes on in my mind, SAD is in full bloom. This has been the typical process for me, as long as I can remember. Each year, I forget how winter affects my daily routine and life attitude.
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is the medical term for the winter blues. Many may experience this feeling only during the winter months when the temperatures are getting cooler, the sun is less available, and our activity level slows almost to the point of stopping. Since it is a seasonal result, it may go undetected and shrugged off. The National Institute for Mental Health, (NIH), defines “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) as a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer. Depressive episodes linked to the summer can occur, but are much less common than winter episodes of SAD”. Read more on this site to understand how SAD can be turned into something that moves you forward instead of holding you still.
This time, though, I am choosing to be more proactive and knowledgeable about the process of SAD and its progression. This is not me, the me who loves activity and loves life. A sedentary lifestyle is contrary to my activity level in the warmer seasons of the year. To break the cycle, I want to share with you information that offers ways to positively wade through the winter season SAD feelings.
Lauren McDonald on ActiveBeat.com has an article that includes details for ways to beat SAD. It is a must-read to understand her list that I have summarized below:
- Social plans
- Take a trip
- Soak up the sun
- Let the light in
- Lightbox therapy
- Consider seeing a therapist
- Make room for ‘me time’
- Avoid loading up on carbs
- Take medication if needed
One element missing from Ms. McDonald’s list is detecting if those feelings are SAD or just the result of a bad day. For me, it seems to take well into the winter season for me to recognize for myself what has actually happened. Once recognition occurs, I find ways to cope better and work on the positive behaviors to change those winter blues.
Speaking to one of my colleagues, she offered her own experience and solution that has helped cope with the effects of SAD. “I have SAD. This past year, I got ahead of it and started taking an antidepressant before it got bad. It’s typically the same time of the year that gets really hard, so I know when to prepare. I have a “happy light” that helps, and I try to do things that make me happy: painting, writing, watching favorite movies. This past week was really bad actually. I had a bit of a meltdown one night, so I stopped what I was doing, closed out of all school-related things and social media, and I painted while watching Disney movies. The key, in my own experience, is to find at least one thing that you can do to get away from everything. Painting not only distracts me, I can express myself through it if needed”.
If those winter blahs are getting you down, I hope that this article raises awareness that you are not alone in those feelings. There are many ways to address and move positively through those gray days until the warmth and brilliance of the freshness of Spring and the promise of Summer strengthen your resolve of happy days ahead. These two seasons are energizing for me, the outdoor girl who loves love and I can be me again.