Seasonal Affective Disorder: Battling the Winter Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder: Battling the Winter Blues

On 15 Jan 2021, in stress, mental health

By Cynthia Hovis, MSW, LCSW

Are you experiencing the “winter blues?” It could be seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a mood disorder related to the change in seasons and lack of exposure to daylight. SAD is a rare example of a psychiatric disorder with a clear, identifiable biological cause.

Symptoms of SAD include increased appetite including carbohydrate cravings, increased sleep, weight gain, irritability, heavy-feeling arms or legs and interpersonal difficulties.

The treatment for SAD can include light therapy, medication and counseling/psychotherapy. Cognitive behavior therapy has been effective in helping some clients determine ways to change their thought and behavior patterns to enhance their mood and energy levels.

The take-away for all is that cold weather, less light and the stress of the holiday seasons can have a negative effect on how we feel -- physically, mentally and emotionally. Now is the time to focus on a healthy balance by:

  • Stay connected to friends and family
  • Participate in fun activities
  • Eliminate commitments that are more stressful than rewarding
  • Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
  • Get regular exercise, or at least add in daily movement if not a full workout
  • Take in a much natural light as possible

If you have concerns about your health, your first step is always to check in with your primary care physician or contact BJC EAP.

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