With the start of the winter season, many people begin feeling more tired, sluggish, and slightly depressed which can be a result of a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Ten to 20 percent of people experience a form of winter-onset SAD, a type of depression that starts in early winter and usually disappears during the sunnier days of spring and summer.
Symptoms of SAD can include loss of energy, depression, anxiety, oversleeping, and appetite changes. It is normal to have some days when you feel down, but if you feel down for several days at a time, and you find that you are no longer interested in activities that you normally enjoy, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor.
No one knows the root cause of SAD, but there are several factors that are likely to play a role in the condition. One factor may be your biological clock. It is common to have several gray, dreary days during the winter and this reduction in sunlight may disrupt the body’s internal clock which tells you when you should be awake and when you should be asleep. This disruption in circadian rhythm may lead to feelings of depression. Another cause may be a disrupted balance of melatonin and serotonin levels, which both play a role in affecting mood.
Additionally, factors that may increase your risk of SAD include:
- Being female.
- Living far from the equator.
- Family history of SAD.
Whether you are experiencing SAD or just have a mild case of the ‘Winter Blues’, Mercy suggests these simple tips to beat the blues:
- Exercise: Exercise is not just good for helping you maintain a healthy weight; it also helps you relieve everyday stresses. You will find yourself with more energy and in a better mood.
- Eat a healthy diet: Avoid processed and refined foods such as white breads, rice, and sugar. These foods zap your energy levels and can adversely affect your mood. Instead, eat more complex carbohydrates found in whole wheat breads, brown rice, fruits and vegetables, and drink lots of water.
- Get some sun: Even though it is dark and cold outside, it is healthy to spend as much time outdoors as possible. While inside, open your blinds and let the sunlight in.
- Relax: Everyone gets busy and bogged down with work and chores, but make sure that you take time for yourself. Whether you try yoga and meditation, or take time to read a book before bed, relaxation can help alleviate stress and refresh your energy.
- Get some sleep: With a busy schedule it can be difficult to get enough sleep. However, aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and try to keep your bedtime and wake-time consistent; this way, you can regulate your sleeping patterns and you will have more energy. Avoid oversleeping, as this may leave you more tired. Naps also help in re-energizing your body.