Every year around this time, the seasons change and so do we. Some may notice that when you wake up the sun has yet to rise, even though it’s well after 6:30 a.m. Others may be frustrated that the sun sets well before you are ready for bed. For some, the changing of the seasons is a welcomed occurrence. However, for many, the seasons changing bring forth several months of low-level depression, weight gain and mood swings. It is important for us to recognize and validate these feelings. There are so many people who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD, that luckily scientists and medical professionals have begun to try to combat this affliction that affects so many people across the globe.
The Mayo Clinic has served as a great resource for people who suffer from SAD. They note that symptoms start in the fall months and continue into the winter months. Often times individuals are sapped of their energy and feel unlike themselves. They state that some of the symptoms of “winter sadness” or “winter depression” may include irritability, tiredness or low energy, problems getting along with other people, a heavy “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs, oversleeping, appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates, and weight gain. Many of the symptoms make you feel as if you want to just hibernate like a bear and wake up when spring emerges. However, we know that we must continue with our lives and a long six months’ winters nap is not possible.
Although SAD is more commonly diagnosed in women, men may suffer more severely from SAD. If you find it difficult to get out of bed and complete daily functions, medical professions suggest you seek help from a licensed professional. I find that waking up to total darkness is definitely a difficult task and my motivation for mundane activities is drastically decreased. Therefore, for example, if I plan to go to the gym in the morning and know that I will wake up to total darkness, I lay out my gym clothes the night before right by my bed, I do not allow myself to hit the snooze button and I try to find a gym buddy who will hold me accountable.
Medical professionals suggest getting a special lamp to assist with light therapy, getting outdoors, practicing regular exercise, taking supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids or St. John’s Wart, yoga, meditation, acupuncture or seeing a therapist if the symptoms are more severe. Whatever works best for you, do it. Also, know that you are not alone. Millions of people struggle with this transition from summer to the fall and winter months and need an extra boost to assist with motivation and all-around happiness. The key is to know you are not alone.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.