Winter Blues

The cold weather can bring sadness to some.
The cold weather can bring sadness to some.
Ella McNamee

During the winter in areas that receive less sun, such as in the Northern United States, many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This mood-changing disorder can affect people in different ways, from minor mood swings to full-blown depression because of the lack of sunlight and colder weather. This disorder is very common, with more than three million cases reported each year in the U.S., and many more cases going undiagnosed. Seasonal affective disorder occurs because of lessened exposure to sunlight due to shorter days. Generally, SAD develops from age 18 to 30. Luckily, there are strategies and some medications to help treat this disorder, and many people have their own remedies. Hopefully, after employing some of these strategies, winter will not seem as daunting to those who suffer from SAD.  Being a person who suffers from SAD myself, I can offer insight in that respect.

Seasonal affective disorder is a mood disorder distinguished by depression that happens at around the same time every year. Studies show that seasonal affective disorder only affects about four to six percent of the population but an additional 10 to 20 percent may have mild cases of the disorder. However, men seem to be less affected by SAD, with four out of five of those diagnosed being women. Some symptoms of SAD are anxiety, stress and general sadness.

There are many ways that I combat Winter Blues. I have a light box which simulates sunlight that I have on while eating breakfast because it Exposes me on this dreary winter mornings to light. Another way I combat symptoms of SAD is by taking a walk before it gets dark or too cold. When my legs get tired I stop by a friend’s house to make the walk more exciting and catch up with them. Pets can also provide much-needed stress relief for those with SAD. My dog and cat are some of my best remedies for combating sadness. The purr of my cat Fiona is always soothing, and my dog’s silky ears always cheer me up when I am down.

Sometimes when I’ve had a bad day, listening to music is so good for my ears lightens my mood. I love the upbeat sounds of pop music. Some of my favorites are “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson. Another song that helps to lift my mood is “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. This song reminds me of my first trip to Cancún, Mexico and having something to look forward to – what I call my happy place. Having a happy place is very important to me dealing with Winter Blues. When I hear this song it makes me excited for the future and nostalgic for the past. In second grade I developed this strategy with the help from my mom. We went to a resort in Mexico and it was gorgeous! When winter is getting me down, thinking of the sunshine and warmth of Mexico always helps me. My family keeps a countdown timer until our next vacation, always giving us something to look forward to.

Therapy can be another way to combat SAD. Aromatherapy is a type of therapy that involves your olfactory system, or your sense of smell. I personally love the citrusy scents which remind me of the beach and fresh fruits in Mexico. Another scent that helps my mood is the smell of chlorine from the pool and the smell of sunscreen. Another good idea for therapy can be cognitive behavior therapy a talk therapy which can reduce negative thoughts. These types of therapy help those who are suffering talk through their feelings and find physical and mental remedies.

There are some strategies that I may not use but can also help those suffering from SAD. It may be helpful to have a quiet place, watch some of your favorite shows, and spend time with family. Having a box of your favorite items is also something that many people do to make themselves happy. These can help reduce your anxiety because they remind you of the happy things in life.

If you have SAD and the usual remedies aren’t helping, find a doctor or psychologist who can prescribe medicine. An antidepressant may not be a bad idea, and studies show it can be as effective as a light box. A doctor can help you figure out the best solution that works, and there are other professionals such as therapists that can help to remedy SAD.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone! Talk to friends and family and ask them to help you. I hope that this can help those who suffer from SAD and dispel some of the preconceived notions about what people think that seasonal affective disorder is.  And remember, spring is only a month away!

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