If you have lived in Michigan for any length of time, you are aware of how very long those winter months can feel. Although winter can often be beautiful, it can be difficult to enjoy day after day of clouds, cold, and being confined indoors. Fortunately, March is upon us and we are starting to enjoy the warmer days, the slices of sunshine, and the ability to stretch our muscles outdoors.
However, for many individuals that suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it can be an even slower recovery from the effects of winter. SAD is a mood disorder associated with depression and is related to the decreased amount of sunlight through the course of the colder seasons. SAD directly affects half a million people every winter most commonly between September and April. The majority of individuals feel the greatest effects in December, January, and February. Symptoms of SAD include: Depression, Anxiety, Mood Changes, Sleep Problems, Lethargy, Overeating, Social Problems, and/or Sexual Problems.
SAD is treatable throughout the winter with Phototherapy, Time Outdoors, Counseling, Exercise, and/or Antidepressant Medication. However, it is important to recognize that this is what is happening so that you can seek help when those winter months return and start to affect your mood.
Fortunately, we are at the end of winter here in Michigan, and the effects of SAD tend to lessen as our exposure to natural sunlight hours increase. So, if this has been an especially difficult winter for you, recognize that something more might be going on. And, get yourself outside so you can bounce back in our great warm weather!
For more information on SAD, check out: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/sad
-Emily DeJong, L.M.F.T.