Summer brings out so much happiness, excitement and a sense of relief. We find that the sunshine and warm weather causes a natural sense of easiness within us. This feels typically lasts till about November, when the sun begins to set fairly early, the warm weather becomes cooler and our sense of excitement seems to fade. For many, winter just doesn’t do it. Our motivation begins to go down, our happiness begins to be tucked away and who we were just a few months back seems to fade.
For some, this change seems to cause a more severe affect than on others and can be described as the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). So, what exactly is this type of disorder? How do I know it is not simply winter blues? Well, this article can answer some of these questions!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. SAD starts and ends the same time every year, with symptoms beginning at the start of fall and continues into the winter months…usually. Individuals begin to feel moody and unmotivated. There are the rare cases where SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer. Either way, the symptoms start out as mild and become more severe as the season progresses.
SAD: subtype of major depression
SAD shares many symptoms with major depression, which is a reason why it can be difficult for health professionals to differentiate between the two disorders. Here are some of the similarities both share:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Having low energy
- Losing interest in activities once enjoyed
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
It is important to speak to a health care professional, such as a psychotherapist, in order to figure out what it is exactly you are experiencing. Self-diagnosis is never a good thing, so if you are feeling any of these symptoms, make sure you check with a professional!
Seasonal pattern assessment questionnaire (SPAQ)
An assessment is something that is fairly beneficial for both client and the psychotherapist. It allows the therapist to understand the client a little better and for the client to understand what they are feeling as well. The SPAQ is a seven-part retrospective self-report assessment of the degree of seasonal change in key variables of mood, sleep, energy, weight and appetite. To understand more about how this assessment works, make sure to ask your psychotherapist and they would be happy to elaborate.
5 Tips for Preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder
Luckily, there are ways to treat and prevent SAD. Seeking the help of a psychotherapist is one way to help get through your seasonal depression. Through this talk therapy, you can discuss what is getting you down, how to change your negative thoughts into more healthier thoughts and simply talking to someone is helpful overall. In terms of prevention, there are various ways that someone who is dealing with winter blues can get through those long, cold winter nights. Here are a few:
- Spending time outdoors every day, even when the sun is not shining.
- Consider investing in a light box, tricking your mind that it is sunny out there, even when it is not.
- Push yourself to engage in physical activity, at least 30 minutes a day. Being active allows for the release of neurotransmitters that affect your mood.
- Try and push yourself to be social. Whether that means speaking on the phone with someone, facetiming or going for walks.
- Make sure your sleep schedule is on track. Getting a healthy amount of sleep will allow your mind to be at peace and feel refreshed.
If you feel that you are experiencing SAD or simply are not feeling yourself during these cold winter months, push yourself to book an appointment with one of our psychotherapists today! It will surely help get through these long months!