Seasonal Affective Disorder
Memorial Day has passed. It's the season for barbecues, pools and the beach. The weather is hot and sunny with a mix of thunderstorms. Though the calendar says the first day of Summer is June 21, culturally speaking, it's summertime. And if you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, you may notice that you have more energy, your body may feel less heavy and you may feel more interested in participating in the world around you.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD?
According to the Harvard Health Blog, about a half of a million people are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder each year. Think of it as the "Winter Blues"--it's grey outside, freezing cold, dreary and dull, it's easy to want to hide inside until the sun comes out again. But for people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder, the "Winter Blues" are a little more intense. Symptoms include:
Loss of interest
Sleeping trouble--insomnia or sleeping too much
Craving sugar and carbs--overeating
Agitation or Anxiety
Heavy feeling in the body
What Causes S.A.D?
Kids and adults thrive on routine, and our environment impacts our well-being. In the winter, those who live far north and far south of the equator experience reduced access to sunlight. Experts believe that reduced levels of light can affect our body’s circadian rhythm--our internal biological clock that regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day. It's also been shown that reduced exposure to sunlight can cause a drop in Serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter known to help regulate mood. Finally, seasonal changes can affect Melatonin levels in the brain which play a role in regulating both sleep patterns and mood.
How to Feel Better
The majority of people who experience S.A.D, feel the symptoms increase in the Winter season. Therefore, enjoy every moment of sunlight you can while it's here! If you're not sure whether you have a seasonal depression, take note of how your body feels, your sleeping and eating patterns, and your level of felt depression. Are there any changes now that the winter is behind us? Watch for changes again as Fall approaches.
If you believe you do have S.A.D, or that depressed feelings get more intense over the winter, the most important thing you can do is to get outside--especially in the morning--and bask in the sunlight! This will help boost your mood and regulate your sleep through promoting healthy circadian rhythm balance. You can also talk to your doctor about medications or supplements that can help you through. Psychotherapy is also an important option, and Creating Space Counseling and Wellness can help you through the ups and downs of seasonal changes.
Enjoy the summer and the sun's light while you can. Allow yourself to really feel the positive changes that can come along with longer days and shorter evenings. And if and when you need it, call Creating Space Counseling and Wellness for a free 15 minute phone consultation.