Do you ever lack energy in the Winter? Is it harder to get up in the morning? Do you notice that you smile less? You may be struggling with Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. Sometimes we shorten it to SAD. And Y’ALL it is a REAL THING!

Mayo Clinic defines Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder as a type of depression that is related to the change in season. It typically begins and ends at the same times each year. For some people, it is a Fall/ Winter onset and for others, it is a Spring/ Summer onset.  

Signs and symptoms of SAD may include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide (You definitely need to tell someone if this is true for you.)

Some people say it’s all in your head. Don’t even think about trying to convince these people. Just accept that they are in a different place than you.

When to see a doctor

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can’t get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you notice you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation. 

Causes

The specific cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

Complications

Take signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to problems if it’s not treated. These can include:

  • Social withdrawal. Have you reduced the amount of time you spend with people you love?
  • School or work problems. Are you experiencing more agitation or conflict with co-workers?
  • Substance abuse. Are you reaching for something to make you feel better?
  • Other mental health disorders such as anxiety or eating disorders. Do you feel excessively worried? Are you binge eating or restricting your eating?
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior. Please tell someone!

➡️ When you notice these patterns, be intentional about having compassion for yourself. You are not less than or weak or crazy. You are a person that experiences depression sometimes.

Practice positive self-talk. “It won’t always be like this, this is just a season.”

Name things you like about yourself. 

Remind yourself that you have felt this way before and then you got through it and things improved.

Stay out of judgment of yourself. Often as Christians, people think they shouldn’t experience mental health issues. This often leads to wanting to hide symptoms. The truth is, most people struggle with sadness, depression, and anxiety at some point in their lives. Shift away from judging yourself and move towards having compassion for yourself. And remember Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Be KIND to yourself. Remind yourself that this is temporary and that it is part of your body chemistry. 

Give yourself extra time to get things accomplished. 

Invite an understanding friend over and work together to straighten your house. ☺️

Make the most of natural light. 🌞 If you can sit outside for a few minutes at lunch or on a break DO IT! Natural light helps reduce SAD.

Avoid stress. Are there people in your life that add to your stress? Reduce the time you spend with them.

Call a supportive friend or family member that really gets you. Reach out and tell them when you are struggling.

Eat right and exercise. When we don’t feel great we tend to reach for carbs to give us a little sugar rush. But after the sugar rush comes the sugar crash! So be intentional about eating fresh fruits and veggies. Also, don’t skip the workout! Working out will improve your mood and increase your health on so many levels.

Take supplements. Vitamin D and K2 to improve mood. 

If you can visit a place with more light do it! People who live closer to the Equator are less likely to suffer from SAD.

Look into getting a light box that helps imitate sunlight. Light boxes help reduce the effects of SAD.

Finally, if you wonder where God is in these days when you struggle with SAD, please know, remember and rest in this, He is right there with you. 
Psalm 139:11-12 ~ “If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.”

I hope this helps raise awareness of a disorder that can be very heavy to live with through big parts of the year. If you are struggling, please know you are not alone and feel free to message me directly.

~ Donna Durham, MMFT

**A note for friends. If you notice that a friend of yours just doesn’t seem themselves, SAY SOMETHING! It is better to be a caring friend and be wrong, than to stay silent and be right.  💗

Photo by Adam Chang on Unsplash