Are you just feeling sad, or could you be experiencing SAD?

Many people find themselves feeling less energetic and motivated during the winter months. But if your “winter-blues” are resulting in significant changes in your mood and behavior, you may be experiencing a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

As December marks Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Awareness Month, let’s look at the signs. SAD symptoms typically last for about 4−5 months out of the year and include those associated with depression as well as disorder-specific symptoms. Symptoms can include but are not limited to:

  • Oversleeping
  • Overeating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, and/or helplessness  
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause and do not go away with treatment
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of SAD, talk to your primary care or mental health provider right away.

Not experiencing SAD, but still find yourself feeling sad sometimes this time of year? Here are some ways to help maintain happiness during the winter months.

  1. Embrace Natural Light: Make the most of available daylight. Spend time outdoors during the brightest parts of the day, even if it’s just for a short walk. Open curtains and blinds to allow sunlight into your living space.
  2. Stay Active: Physical activity has proven benefits for mental health. Engage in winter sports, indoor exercises, or simply take the stairs instead of the elevator. Regular movement can boost mood and energy levels.
  3. Connect with Others: Maintain social connections to combat feelings of isolation. Plan gatherings, virtual or in-person, with friends and family. Engaging in social activities can provide support and a sense of community.
  4. Create a Cozy Environment: Decorate your living space with lights, candles, and warm colors to create a cozy atmosphere. Surrounding yourself with comforting elements can positively impact your mood.
  5. Practice Mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your routine, such as meditation or deep-breathing exercises. Mindfulness can help manage stress and promote a positive mindset.
  6. Establish a Routine: Structure and routine can bring a sense of stability during the winter months. Set realistic goals, plan enjoyable activities, and prioritize self-care.
  7. Explore Hobbies: Take up winter-friendly hobbies that bring joy. Whether it’s reading, crafting, or learning a new skill, engaging in activities you love can provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
  8. Seek Professional Support: If feelings of sadness persist, consider reaching out to mental health professionals. At Heartland Community Health Center, our team is here to offer support and tailored solutions for mental well-being.

By promoting awareness and focusing on proactive measures, we aim to empower individuals to navigate the winter season with a positive mindset. December, as SAD Awareness Month, serves as a reminder to prioritize mental health and adopt strategies that contribute to a happier and healthier winter experience.