Less energy. Can't concentrate. Loss of interest in regular activities. Social withdrawal. Unhappiness or irritability. Crying more often. Oversleeping.
If you are feeling most, or all, of these symptoms and find that you only seem to suffer from them at a certain time of year, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). The acronym is witty, but the actual experience is anything but funny.
Around six percent of Americans suffer from S.A.D., according to the National Institute of Health. Another 14 percent suffer from the "winter blues," a milder version. It tends to run in families.
There are plenty of ways to win this battle without medication:
- Get off the couch. Don't sit around for too long and dwell on why you're sad. Sometimes things get worse when you over-analyze. Sometimes nothing is wrong, it's just a nasty time of year.
- Call some friends and tell them how you feel. You can even preface it by saying, “Hey, I go crazy once a year, can we talk?” (Hey, whatever works!) Or, write down how you feel. Just get it out.
- Exercise. The endorphins will give you a significant boost. Take a walk around the neighborhood or a nearby park. Alexander Park has some nice walking trails. Briscoe and Lenora parks have beautiful views that will lift your spirits, even in the winter.
- Stay social. Being alone is one of the worst things you can do. Problems get magnified when they're under the microscope of our mind and imagination. You may want to hibernate, but don't!
- Relax. Do some yoga, or plan a vacation. Drink hot chocolate. Do something that you really enjoy.
- These are all easier said than done. Just do what you can.
- Purchase a light therapy kit. Experts say that 60-80 percent of people who use them feel better.
Take a deep breath. This will pass.
If things don't get better soon, talk to your doctor. S.A.D. can lead to deeper depression, and that's very tough to get out of. What you're feeling is real, so make sure to take care of yourself.