The World Series is over (and the Giants won!), Halloween is over, Daylight Savings Time ends this weekend. Thanksgiving, Passover, and Christmas will be here before you know it. With colder days and longer nights, we tend to eat more, sleep more, gain weight and get depressed.
This combination of symptoms has a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Good name right? SAD can stay with us through the holidays and long, unbroken winter months until spring comes, and the days begin to lengthen again.
As with all mental health issues, there can be many causes. Genetics is one, brain chemistry is another. Holiday expectations, unmet or not, can factor in as well. You may also be more or less affected depending on where you live. People who live in the North, where days are shortest, suffer from SAD more than those who live in Florida.
The good news is that SAD is something that you can treat fairly easily. Like any other mood disturbance, you should check with your physician first. Medication is one option. Another is light therapy. The use of full spectrum light for thirty minutes each day can improve your mood dramatically. Full spectrum lights used to be in a large, unwieldy box. Nowadays, you can purchase them on Amazon for less than $25. Light therapy is thought to help your body regulate melatonin, and to help your brain “reset” itself. It tricks the brain into thinking that the days are longer, even when they aren’t.
Something else that you can do for youself is to make sure that exercise regularly, and you get outside in the sun whenever possible. Take a walk around the block during your break or lunch. Walk to or from work if you can. On weekends, take more time outside. Go to the farmer’s market for your vegetables. Or take a hike. Or go to an outdoor ice rink. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where outdoor activities are available all year long, and they don’t have to cost any money.
SAD doesn’t go away, but as the name implies, it is seasonal. That means that it is easy to manage by looking at the calendar and planning accordingly. Take care of yourself and be well.