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Do You Have the Fall and Winter Blues?

Katrina Christie, M.Ed., LCPC

A feeling comes over us in mid to late autumn, as the remaining leaves drop, the sun sets earlier and the morning frosts cover the ground.   Hot cider, football and a cozy sweatshirt might be all you need to face the coming winter, but for many, fall melancholy strengthens to winter depression.  Many things, including ions in the air, genetics and brain chemicals seem to be involved in winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD.  The main thing most suffers of SAD have in common is that they are sensitive to light, or the lack of it.  SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  Most people with SAD begin to feel symptoms in the fall and continue into the winter months.  As the days get shorter we have less exposure to sunlight, and as a result our brains create more melatonin causing lethargy and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • Problems getting along with other people
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection
  • Heavy feeling in the arms or legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain

What can you do to prepare and manage SAD?

  • Get outside as often as you can.  A morning walk outside can do wonders...even on a chilly and cloudy day!  Just being exposed to natural daylight is beneficial, even if the sun is not shining. 

  • Eat well....winter blues can make you crave sugary foods and carbohydrates such as chocolate, bread and pasta, but don't forget to include plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet.

  • Stay active...Exercise is a great and natural serotonin booster!  Exercise can also help by providing a pleasant change of scene and helping you to be more social.  Why not find a great outdoor activity?  This way you not only get the exercise, but you also get some natural daylight at the same time. 

  • Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities.  This ca be a tremendous means of support during winter months.

  • Consider seeing a behavioral/mental health specialist to help you cope with your symptoms and provide resources for improvement.

When to see a professional?

It is normal to have some days when you feel down, but if you feel down for days at a time and you can not get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy please seek professional help.  A doctor or behavioral health specialist will be able to assist you in managing and reducing your symptoms of SAD.  First Health Associates is here to help!   Please contact the office to schedule an appointment.