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  • Writer's pictureFootsteps Counseling

The Big SAD

It’s that time of year again, where I begin running through my checklist with every client on preparing for "The Big SAD"- otherwise knows as Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Johns-Hopkins University defines SAD as “a type of depression that happens during a certain season of the year—most often fall and winter.” I’ve found that, with or without a SAD diagnosis, most people get some form of the winter blues.

With temperature changes, daylight hours decreasing, and the “holly jolly” season bringing most people into forced proximity with their family- I’d say at least 80% of my clients tell me this is not their favorite time of the year.

The most common symptoms I see in my clients are:

  • Decreased motivation for movement.

  • Increased time sleeping or staying in bed.

  • Decreased socialization with friends, such as “once I’m home for the day I will not be going back out.”

  • Mood changes, such as sadness, frustration, hopelessness, and overall stress.

  • Irritability or trauma reactions due to tense family interactions.

  • Financial anxiety.

Not exactly a good time! Unfortunately, the “cure” for the winter blues is all the crap that no one really wants to do (exercise, eat right, etc.). With that being said, I always encourage people to weigh their buy-in to changing things. Bluntly put: if you don’t want to be sad, you have to do the things.

The things:

  • With daytime so limited, consider taking a walk on your lunch break.

  • Hate walks? Eat lunch outside in the sunshine; you’ll just have to bundle up.

  • Hate outside? When you can’t absorb the sun, try ingesting it! Vitamin D is a commonly available over the counter option.

  • Still not enough? My time in Seattle taught me about the power of light therapy lamps! There are many options between $20-$50, and can be used in intervals while you do computer work or read.

  • Lastly, if you have true SAD or regular old depression, do your research and consider speaking with a medical provider about an antidepressant.

Overall, taking a look at what typically happens in your life around the winter time is a powerful way to prepare yourself. It’s not uncommon for people to be completely fine through the holidays, and then hit a rough patch in January. Knowing what you can expect from yourself allows you to plan ahead, alert your care team, and give yourself a sense of security.

Stay cool, stay warm, stay safe.

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