During the winter season, many of us in the Midwestern region of the United States have cold and long winters. Snow, coldness, ice, and less sunlight is common in Michigan starting in late November until early April. When this season kicks into gear, many people spend less time outdoors and wrapped up in the warmth of their home. Activity level decreases and we don’t eat the best types or variety of foods either.
During the winter months, people may experience what has been termed “the winter blues.” This is also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Feeling down or depressed
- Low energy or feeling tired
- Lose of interest in normal activities
- Sleeping difficulties
- Weight gain or loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Short fuse or irritable
- Feeling guilty or hopeless
- Thoughts of suicide
Remember, no great misery goes unnoticed, if you are struggling with your mental health, be sure to reach out to a qualified mental health professional. If you are considering suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK, call 9-1-1, or visit the closest emergency room.
Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder
Treating Seasonal Affective Disorder is similar to treating major depressive disorder and a combination of counseling, medication, and even light therapy may be appropriate. I always encourage new clients to follow up with their primary care physician to ensure they have a clean bill of health and to rule out any other medical reasons for how they are feeling.
Tips to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Get outside and move. Start small with a short walk. Physical activity helps improve your mood and reduces anxiety and stress.
Try one of my 10 self care tips!
The sunlight can help improve your mood as well. You can sit outside for a few minutes and let the natural sunlight work its magic on your body.
Get back into a regular sleep schedule. Adults aged 18-64 typically need about 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you are getting less than this, be sure to read the next tip.
Avoid using your phone, tablet, or laptop before bed. The blue light that is emitted by your screens has a waking effect on the body and makes it more difficult to sleep.
Instead of grabbing a snack full of sugar, salt, or caffeine, reach for some fruit or vegetables.
Don’t withdrawal from friends and family, be social. Get out of the house and do something that you enjoy with your trust circle of friends and family. Social support is a great stress reducer.
Free depression screening
You can take a free mental health depression screening online. It’s anonymous too. This screening takes about 1 minute to complete. At the end of the screening you will be connected to additional mental health resources. Take a free and anonymous screening at Help Yourself, Help Others. *Please note that screening are for informational and educational purposes.
When should I get help?
Many people feel down during the course of a winter season but if the feelings of depression last longer than a few days, it may be time to contact a mental health professional, like a Licensed Professional Counselor.
I believe that you deserve more than ok. Ready to make an appointment? Contact me today.
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Jeff Simms is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Board Certified Counselor in private practice in Grand Blanc, Michigan. Jeff works with adults that want to get better dealing with their anxiety, depression, PTSD, and marriage.