Does winter have you feeling blue? It’s true we’re all a little irritable post Labor Day. After all we’re mourning the loss of beach trips, BBQs, and comfy flip-flops. But the end of summer can be more than a bummer; it can even cause you to develop a mood disorder. If you’re feeling more down than usual you could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.).
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy solutions for busting out of your cold weather funk. Keep reading as we break down the cause, the symptoms, and solutions for those winter blues.
What is S.A.D.?:
Winter means months of cold temperatures and dark days (literally), so it’s no surprise we all get a little cranky. But if you’re going beyond the occasional grumpy day, your feelings may actually be a sign of depression. “Seasonal Affective Disorder is a set of mood disorders that is associated with the decrease of exposure to sunlight,” says Stephen C. Josephson, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center. The syndrome occurs typically in the fall and tends to get worse in the winter months. “It is also believed that there is a gene that causes some people to be predisposed,” says Josephson.
The symptoms :
S.A.D. symptoms are typical of depression. “Tiredness, prone to sleep, trouble getting out of bed, and overeating — especially carbohydrates,” says Josephson. Other symptoms also include a decrease in activity, irritability, trouble concentrating, and even crying spells.
Solution: Light therapy
One of the best solutions is phototherapy such as dawn simulators. “Dawn simulators are lamps in your house that turn on as the sun comes up,” says Josephson. An individual is exposed to the light from powerful bulbs (around 1,000 lux) for 30 minutes each morning. “The results are quite powerful — as effective as an anti-depressant,” says Josephson.
Solution: Plan a winter vacation :
Another way to get a bit of light therapy: change your lotion. Spending a few days in a tropical climate filled with lots of sun, such as the Caribbean, can dramatically perk up your mood. It may not be cheap but if you can swing it, it’s a lot of fun.
Exercise has long been essential to fighting off depression. Many studies prove that even a brief workout will kick your endorphins into high gear, which leaves you with a positive, energized feeling. “Getting off your butt and out of the house is extremely important,” says Josephson. So even if the weather is preventing you from jogging outside, skip the yoga in your living room and instead pop over to your gym for a class or quick turn on the treadmill. The change of scenery will do you a world of good.
Solution: Lay off the carbs :
Although the holidays are packed with heavy foods and tons of sweets, gobbling carbohydrates will only add to your already fatigued feeling, says Josephson. Steer clear from overeating breads, pastas, and cookies and instead opt for energy-boosting snacks with protein such as raw nuts.
Solution: See your doctor:
If your winter blues aren’t improving, it’s important to see your doctor. There are several antidepressant medications that can be helpful for boosting serotonin levels and improving your mood so you can keep your S.A.D. under control.