Feeling the Winter Blues? You’re not alone. An estimated 10 million Americans experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each winter and this number is likely to increase due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. The stress of quarantine, job loss, economic hardship and grief over the death of a loved one may aggravate the symptoms of SAD.

Seasonal Affective Disorder comes and goes with the seasons. It tends to happen the same time every year and mostly affects people in the winter. The days are shorter, colder and often wet and gray.  The lack of sunshine is believed to trigger chemical changes in the brain which impact our sleep and mood.

Beating the Winter Blues during the Pandemic

Although SAD is a form of depression, it is not a permanent condition and symptoms vary from mild to severe. Women are four times more likely to be diagnosed and people with mental health issues or a family history of SAD are at a greater risk. Children and teens are also at risk so it’s important to know the symptoms and seek help if you or a family member is suffering.

Symptoms of SAD

*Feeling depressed most days

*Low energy

*Loss of interest in normal activities

*Odd sleeping patterns including difficulty falling asleep

*Change in appetite, especially craving foods high in carbs

*Difficulty concentrating

*Stress and irritability

Treatment for SAD

Minor lifestyle changes can have a major impact on mood.

*Develop a routine. And stick to it. Structure, especially during COVID, is good for our mental health. Wake up at a consistent time, schedule meals and have a regular bedtime. Sleep is very important so aim for eight hours a night.

*Get your Vitamin D to regulate your mood and help ward off depression. The best source is natural sunlight so take a brisk walk early in the day and rearrange the furniture so your desk is near a window. Talk to your doctor before taking supplements.

*Exercise. Regular physical exercise increases our energy and releases endorphins which help improve our mood.

*Eat a balanced diet full of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Minimize sugar as it can make your symptoms worse and limit alcohol consumption.

*Stay connected. A strong network of family and friends is a great buffer for stress. Although we can’t be face-to-face right now we can safely connect with each other through digital platforms.

Be mindful. Focus on today instead of worrying about tomorrow. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing exercises and meditation will help you stay present and improve your mood.

*Schedule fun. Our mood improves when we have something to look forward to, whether it’s a Zoom call with friends, a walk with a neighbor or takeout from a new restaurant.

*Light therapy. Talk to your doctor about light therapy as a way to ease symptoms.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and there is no shame in seeking help. People with existing mental health concerns are more prone to SAD and symptoms of depression may worsen. If symptoms are severe, doctors may prescribe medication as well as cognitive behavioral therapy.

You’re not alone. Our team at WellBridge Healthcare is committed to helping patients and their families understand the causes and symptoms of mental illness, as well as the treatments to help patients lead healthy and productive lives. If you are experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis, please contact WellBridge Healthcare at 972-596-5455 (Plano) or 817-361-1991 (Fort Worth). We are available 24/7.

By WellBridge Healthcare