Every year when fall approaches, I dread the colder weather and the shorter days to come.
An estimated 10 million Americans also feel the same way due to seasonal affective disorder. The recurrent depressive disorder causes and exacerbates depression annually and mainly affects women ages 18-30, according to Psychology Today.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is most prevalent in the winter months of December, January and February, but many experience a decline in mood and motivation as early as October.
The lack of sunlight throughout these months causes our brains to produce the hormone melatonin, which makes us sleepy and lethargic. The change in weather also makes our brains produce less serotonin, which is responsible for stress management. Symptoms can include increased suicidal thoughts, change in appetite, irritability, lethargy and more.
The disorder can be especially pronounced in those struggling with anxiety and depression year-round. Combined with the collective dread many are feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of hopelessness may feel inescapable.
But our moods don’t have to fall with the leaves if we do our best to stay busy. Immersing oneself in hobbies, getting outside to soak in as much sunlight as possible and resisting the urge to socially isolate are key tactics in fighting seasonal affective disorder.
This year, I’m combatting the “winter blues” through supplements and playing music as much as possible. I’m also looking to take more walks around my neighborhood during the daytime when weather permits.
But what works for one person may not work for another. Whether it’s severe SAD or depression in general, it may be important to talk to your doctor about treatment options.
Treatment for SAD can include a combination of light therapy, vitamin D supplements, counseling and medications in serious cases.
For mental health crises, call the Tennessee crisis hotline at 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
The Crisis Text Line is also available for those experiencing suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues, including stress related to COVID-19. To connect, text TN to 741741.