Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects millions of people around the world. As winter is a cold season with short days and far less sunlight than the rest of the year, this has a serious effect on the mental and emotional health of many. For many medical professionals that work long days where they rarely see even a hint of sunlight, this can be an even greater issue. Whether you, your coworkers, or your patients are experiencing SAD, here are some tips that can help you to identify and deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
SAD for most people begins as the days grow shorter in the late fall and early winter months. It can happen in summer for some, but these cases are far fewer in number. Though everyone’s personal experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder is a bit different, here are some of the most common symptoms of SAD:
- Extended bouts of sadness and feeling “depressed”
- Sluggishness and lack of energy
- Changes in appetite, including intense food cravings
- Uncontrolled weight loss or gain
- Difficulty sleeping or struggling to wake on time
- Lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Moodiness or agitation
- Suicidal thoughts or preoccupation with death
If you experience these symptoms for an extended period of time, it is important to seek help from your personal physician or other trusted medical professional.
Strategies for Coping
- Get more sunshine – Exposure to sunlight can do wonders to help those who suffer from SAD. Keep curtains and blinds open, get outside when you can, and try artificial light therapy if you simply cannot find a way to increase your exposure to natural sunlight.
- Get more exercise – Exercise increases endorphins which naturally improve your mood. Create a personal schedule that allows for plenty of physical activity during the months when you struggle with SAD.
- Plan some time away – Taking a mid-winter vacation to a warm, sunny climate can be a real boost for those who suffer from seasonal depression. Even the excitement and anticipation of planning the trip and having something to look forward to can help to improve mood.
- Consider antidepressants – If you are suffering from depression and simply cannot shake the symptoms with simple lifestyle changes, your physician can help you to decide on a course of treatment with prescription medication.
When to seek additional help
At times, even with changes and medication, depression symptoms do not improve. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, physically harming themselves, or considering harming others, take steps to get additional medical help immediately. While in most cases, Seasonal Affective Disorder can be managed without seriously invasive treatment, occasionally someone will need more intensive help to overcome their depression.