For many, seasonal transitions are hard. When everyone around you is abuzz about apple picking and Halloween or skiing and snow days, it is easy to feel alone. In reality, Seasonal Affective Disorder (also known as seasonal depression) impacts around 5% of the population. Different and often subtle seasonal changes affect everyone differently, and some SAD triggers may be:
Reactions to Daylight Savings Time
“Falling Back” equates to an extra hour of sleep but also an extra hour of darkness. This may affect peoples’ sleep schedules, routines, and access to vitamin D which is important for many bodily processes and also has been linked to depression.
Inadequate Access to Light
Spending less time in natural sunlight, in addition to colder weather in the northern regions, can alter circadian rhythms. Many people experience and report fatigue and feeling generally less hopeful in the winter months. Light availability also impacts our food intake, so weight gain is common and can be discouraging for many.
There is so much pressure to be happy during the holidays, but whether you have a fully functioning family and or not, the season can be exhausting. Furthermore, seeing a certain person at a gathering may cause conflict, and for others, the time of year alone may evoke painful emotions and memories. Many feel ashamed that their holidays do not look like the perfect ones they see on TV or in magazines.
So, how can one avoid a seasonal funk? For people feeling constantly overwhelmed, therapy and/or medication can be a powerful ally. Some other strategies include:
- Prioritizing and making a list. Do the things you really enjoy and forget about the rest.
- Spending time outdoors in the sunlight or under a sun lamp.
- Maintaining a regular schedule in spite of the time changes.
- Starting your own traditions, particularly if the holidays are painful and triggering.
- Exercising at least 30 minutes a day, eating healthy, and getting sufficient sleep.