Fall is here, I and along with many others are so glad the summer season is over. We don’t have the heat to deal with and we can get ready for the holidays and all of the warmth, beautiful colors and creativity that comes with the fall season. We also get to turn those clocks back, to gain another hour of rest and relaxation before getting on our grind for work and the business of the day.
Fall brings me much joy! I personally, love the fall & winter season and the hibernation feel these seasons bring to us. I love the warmth of lighting the fireplace and making my own potpourri to fill my house and office with the sweet cinnamon, cranberry and apple aromas! However, I know many people dread the fall and the upcoming winter-holiday season. One of the reasons for this is the change in season causes many people to experience SAD!
What is SAD?
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) SAD is defined as a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. Our thoughts and daily habits play a huge role in how we navigate through SAD.
For many people the fall season and its dark and gloomy weather really affects their mind and mood, leaving them feeling depressed, fatigued and like they have the serious case of the blah-blah-blahs. Some people are able to cope and distract themselves during this time by focusing on their families, shopping, painting or creating ornaments to celebrate the season and holidays.
What Causes SAD?
The research on SAD makes the suggestion that it is the sun that determines whether we have normal or low levels of serotonin. When the seasons change and we enter periods that are darker and have less sunlight, our level of serotonin and melatonin in the brain, (both help us to regulate our body’s daily rhythm and cycle) can be thrown off balance.
SAD has a wide variety of symptoms that can impact each person differently. Your genes, your environments at home, work and even where you live in the world can influence how you experience SAD.
If you live in places like Alaska, Detroit or Seattle, places that have reduced daylight hours and less sunlight can cause some serious issues with a person’s natural biological clock or circadian rhythm.
How Does SAD Affect Your Everyday Life
People who experience SAD often share they feel like it is hard to do things they would typically enjoy. People who suffer from SAD often withdraw and avoid interacting with family and friends during the holidays. They also share that they have troubles concentrating and staying focused at work.
It is important to educate yourself and know the signs and symptoms of SAD which can include:
- Sleeping too much
- Restlessness & trouble falling asleep at night
- Increases in appetite or cravings for certain foods
- Weight gain associated with overeating
- Mental and physical fatigue
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Difficulty concentrating
- A sense of hopelessness & worthlessness
- Guilt or shame
- Thoughts of suicide
- Irritation and agitation
What to Do if You Suspect You are Experiencing SAD
If you think you may be experiencing SAD, first off don’t ignore the signs and symptoms. SAD can lead to other issues with your mood that can worsen over time. People who isolate themselves are known to turn to alcohol, drugs & food to try to cope with their symptoms. One of the best means of support to help you or someone you know to healthily deal with SAD is by seeking help and support from a licensed therapist.
A licensed therapist can help you or your loved one to explore your symptoms and decide on a therapy treatment approach that is best suited for you.
What Else Can You Can Do
- Consider you lifestyle habits! If you have dark curtains in your home, because you were trying to keep the summer heat at bay, consider brightening up your home or office!
- Research has shown that spending at least 20 minutes in a bright colored room or wherever you can find light (even if its artificial) can brighten up your mood.
- Talk to your emotionally safe friends and family (the people who you know you can trust) about your struggles with SAD. Sharing your struggles can often help you to gain a sense of being understood and that your are not alone.
- You can also speak to your primary medical doctor about your symptoms and use medication, such as antidepressants to help you with SAD
Need Emergency help?
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress or is thinking about hurting themselves, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You also can text the Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741) or visit https://988lifeline.org.