Are you suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder — slammed by seasonal sadness — dulled, down and depressed as gray wintry days drag on?
I’m feeling sad.
I also know that when I’m sleep deprived, in a post-holiday slump, and subject to January’s dark doldrums, seasonal depression is likely to have a hand in the mix. And this, despite living in a milder climate than where I grew up.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
WebMD describes the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or if you prefer, Seasonal Depression, as follows:
… sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious… [losing] interest in your usual activities… crav[ing] carbohydrates… [gaining] weight… feel tired… trouble concentrating…
“Oh, that’s every type of depression,” you might say. For example — when your kids are worrying you sick, when loneliness lingers after empty nest, when you’re worn out looking for a new job, when your love life is lackluster… with no sizzle or spice in sight.
Well, no. Not exactly.
SAD occurs at the same time of year, in multiple consecutive years, and not as the result of situational factors. As the WebMD resource reports, doctors believe SAD is tied to Circadian rhythms and sunlight.
And incidentally, SAD affects more women than men.
Do We All Suffer Winter Doldrums?
Many of you are digging out from a major blizzard — two feet of snow, your cities recovering, and more days to come before normal schedules resume. And, you can look forward to continuing cold and inclement weather.
I recall my New England and Mid-Atlantic years all too well, and the winters are the primary reason I eventually headed south.
Nevertheless, after what seems like weeks of gray skies, then freezing rain, then sleet, then more gray — a far cry from northern winters — I find myself immeasurably grateful for the sun that has risen in the sky, and the light flooding through my window.
And speaking of light… I’m aware of my desire to hibernate when I’m deprived of its magic. While I may attempt to combat any sluggishness with earlier bedtimes, that doesn’t necessarily deliver more sleep.
Those fewer zzzzs?
They’re Big Bad News, bringing more snacking, more LBs, and feeling down down down as I set aside the skinny jeans…
SAD, So Sad
Seasonal Affective Disorder is not something I thought about when I lived in the Cold Cold Northeast more than 20 years ago. Then, typically by mid-March, I felt as if each hour of every bitter and gloomy day was squeezing the life out of me.
The depression was weighty. And ultimately, predictable.
Most years, I pinched my pennies in order to send myself off to a beach in Florida for a week where I could rest, swim, and read in the sunshine. All I needed was that handful of days, and the benefits of that break helped me through the next months.
It was years later that I learned of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and wondered if I suffered from it, at least to a degree. I rarely spoke of my depression during that period; the stigma against admitting sadness was well entrenched, and I daresay, for most of us, it still is.
Make Way for Moody Blues
When I relocated to a region with shorter winters, the annual blues all but disappeared. Yet occasionally, and especially if combined with other concerns, I feel the downward pull that I believe is in part a matter of lessened light.
Some of it is, admittedly, situational. (Life rarely leaves us with nothing challenging to process.)
This is also a time of year when many of us embark on new starts in a number of ways. Invariably, beginnings often require that we face our failings as we work through endings. This process may tap into troublesome triggers and tug at fragile heartstrings.
When my emotions are working overtime? When I have things on my mind?
Sleep goes missing, with or without a shortage of daylight. And then, disciplined eating routines run amuck.
Is this aggravated by gray skies? Or more so, winter’s ability to compromise mood-elevating exercise?
Rx for SADness
Since flying off to a tropical paradise for the worst of winter isn’t in the cards for most of us — nice concept though, isn’t it? — whereas some prescribe light-box therapy, a recent study suggests that talk therapy achieves better results.
My personal prescription?
Fresh air (brrrrr), even if only briefly. Natural light, whenever the sky brightens. Proper sleep, to the extent that it’s possible. Exercise — of any sort, — even if that means walking in circles inside my little house.
Avoiding the quick-fix sugar hits, knowing they lead to more troubles than they’re worth.
Getting rid of the dirty dishes in the sink? That could work wonders! (Any takers with a pair of yellow gloves?)
- Does everything feel harder in winter?
- Snowy climes aside, do you think it’s due to the impacts of less light?
- What do you do to brighten things up? More colorful clothing? A case of good wine?
- When’s the last time you ran off to a beach — just for yourself?
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