‘Tis the season.
The season of what seems like never-ending work, consistent cloudy skies, and lethargic mood swings that make you want to crawl under a blanket and hibernate. Around this time, feeling sluggish is normal; however, if you find yourself withdrawing socially, and your melancholic slump begins disrupting your school work or everyday life, you may want to consult with your doctor about Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), according to the Mayo Clinic, is a type of depression related to the change of seasons. The majority of people with it experience it throughout fall into early spring. Frequent symptoms of SAD include feeling depressed for most of the day, losing interest in activities you once were passionate about, having low energy and yet having trouble sleeping, feeling worthless, unmotivated, and experiencing a change in appetite or weight, and even an increase of suicidal thoughts. Although it’s cause is officially unknown, some factors that may trigger SAD are solely dependent on the weather.
Fluctuating melatonin levels (which control sleep and mood), and decreasing serotonin levels (which aid in fighting depression), are all directly affected by the body’s intake of sunlight. In gray Grand Rapids — where 54% of days have partial or full cloud cover annually — the lack of light is inevitable. In the last three weeks, Grand Rapids has experienced merely 3.7% of sunshine, and since the first day of 2020, we’ve already seen 8 days where the sun neglected to come out at all.
Whether you simply have a case of the Midwest winter blues, think you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder, or are diagnosed, there are some easy and effective ways to combat the ache that mid-winter leaves you with.
Spending time outside and opening your blinds are easy ways to treat mild cases of SAD by bringing more sunlight into your life. Light Therapy, such as using a “HappyLight”, can act as a replacement for natural sunlight. Exercising consistently and eating a healthy and balanced diet will nourish your body as well as your mind. Continuing to participate in activities you enjoy, surrounding yourself with positive people, and avoiding procrastination are all key tips to maintain balance and keep the feeling of being overwhelmed at bay.
From my desk, illuminated by my own personal HappyLight, I wish you all warm, happy thoughts. Though the forecast may seem bleak, keep your head up Eastern. Spring will inevitably come again!