The holidays are behind us, much of the season's colorful array, the lights, the Christmas trees and crches have been packed away for another year. When you drive down the street after dark you won't expect to see anything much interesting distraction to put you in a festive kind of mood. Sunrise is later and sunset earlier, even though the days are now getting longer since winter solstice has passed.
Some people suffer the blues this time of the year. It may begin in late fall and through the winter when sunlight is so much less. It may be something called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). The National Library of Medicine defines SAD as "a type of depression that occurs at a certain time of the year, usually in the winter." People who live where the nights are longer in winter may be at a higher risk of SAD. It also appears that women suffer SAD more than men.
What are the symptoms of SAD? They are very much like the symptoms of other forms of depression: You might be eating more and gaining weight. (All of those leftover holiday goodies make great comfort food.) You might be sleeping more. Maybe you are having trouble concentrating and finding the energy to do anything and you may have lost interest in the activities that you normally enjoy. You may just feel hopeless and sluggish, miserable and grumpy. You may not feel like being around anyone else, preferring your own company to anyone else.
It's important to be aware of SAD and its symptoms because it can turn into long term depression and worse. You can't take a test to determine if you have SAD, but your health care provider can help you to get on the right track for treatment. Antidepressants and talk therapy can help. And you can manage your symptoms by getting enough rest and sleep, eating healthy, taking your medications correctly, watching for early signs of depression so you can recognize if the depression is worsening and get on top of the situation sooner. It also is recommended that you do things that make you happy. Exercise more often, too.
Some things you should not do are use alcohol and illegal drugs which affect your judgment and worsen depression. When you are depressed or have the blues, that's a good time to talk to someone you trust about the way that you feel. You might be thinking that they will think you are stupid but someone who cares about you is not going to think such things about you. When they care about you they want you to be happy and content. They want to be there for you and know that you will be there for them. Often when you hear your thoughts spoken you are able to put things into their proper perspective. Avoid the toxic people around you and hang out with friends who are positive and caring, who enjoy laughing. You might volunteer or join some group activities. Giving something of yourself to others is a gift to yourself. When you perform random acts of kindness or help someone else in a moment of need, you offer a helping hand to them, and you feel good about yourself for accomplishing something good.
But if you are depressed and feel that you aren't coping well, don't be afraid to reach out for help. Talk to your health care professional about how you are feeling. For SAD, light therapy may be recommended. Without treatment, SAD symptoms usually go away on their own but therapy may speed up the process.
Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.