By Martha Wolfe
Why So S.A.D.?
Winter Blues, also known as “Cabin Fever,” can keep you down this cold and dreary season.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) affects half a million people in the US. Three-quarters of sufferers are women.” Still, I’m sure anyone can relate with the affect less daylight, colder temperatures, and inclement weather can have on our moods. With that being said, what about those that already have a mental health diagnosis? It’s important to recognize that although S.A.D. is its own separate diagnosis, people with a mental health disorder are more likely to feel the effects of winter. Why is that? Cold weather, snow, rain, and lack of sunlight are all triggers for us to stay inside. We seek comfort where it’s warm and safe. This causes our body’s internal clock to tell us to stay asleep because we see that there is no sunshine. All these are potential triggers for people with depression to engage in all of the all too familiar signs that we know as “symptoms.” Withdrawal, isolation, too much sleep, not enough sleep, and loss of pleasure in engaging in activities you once found pleasurable are all signs of depression and S.A.D. The magic question, what can we do?!
Tips on Taking Control
- Continue to follow your current treatment plan with your mental health provider
- If you have an agreed upon treatment with your mental health provider, it’s important that you continue to work toward your goals to prevent relapse or regression in treatment.
- Scents like peppermint, citrus, and grapefruit have been reported to be mood enhancers. – Candles and essential oils are great ways to get these scents generated into the air. By using a diffuser, a candle warmer, or scented wax pieces, you can ensure a pleasant experience.
- Open up your windows!
- At times it can seem impossible to get out of bed, but opening your windows and letting some light in will help with motivation.
- There are a great deal of yoga and low-intensity aerobics for free on the internet. Sites like YouTube are a great way to explore your options at no cost to you. You can easily use alternative exercise equipment with items you already have at home. In lieu if a yoga mat, use a towel. In lieu of weights, gallons of water or canned food are great alternatives! Be creative, just get moving! *Consult your physician before beginning a new routine.
- Call a friend
- The weather outside may be frightening, but with a friend over for some hot cocoa, it can be delighting.
- Set small daily goals to reduce feeling overwhelmed.
- I will open my windows today.
- I will research exercise videos.
- I will explore using aromatherapy.
- I will schedule an extra session with my therapist or case manager this week.
There are many ways to reduce feelings of the “winter blues.” Most importantly, recognize your triggers and implement learned coping skills immediately to reduce length of episode. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Call an Easterseals case worker. We are here to help!