Seasonal Affect Disorder and Post-Holiday Blues

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Seasonal Affect Disorder and Post-Holiday Blues

When winter is in full force, even the best of us can get a little down. Realize it or not, weather affects your mood. And for many, the winter blues is beyond one’s self-control.

Brain chemistry is actually altered by cold weather and shorter days. Melatonin and serotonin are hormones that play a part in controlling moods, energy levels, and sleep. Melatonin helps your sleep and serotonin is connected with happiness and wakefulness. Exposure to sunlight causes levels of these hormones to fluctuate.  In the colder months, the brain produces more melatonin making sleep seem more desirable and less serotonin which can make you mildly depressed. For some, cold weather depression is too much to handle and can result in Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), a seasonal debilitating depression.

[Audio] Listen to Dr. Russell Hyken discuss why some people are depressed in the month of January

For those suffering from SAD, snow can bring about a whole other kind of feelings, such as guilt, loneliness, and feelings of being overwhelmed. The thought of leaving the house, playing with the kids, and putting on their snow clothes is too much too handle. A snow day doesn’t inspire one if they are already feeling down.

Additionally, school snow days can actually cause ‘more’ stress and worry to someone who’s already experiencing a low mood. When the texts messages start inviting the family out to play, build snowmen and have a big social affair, many feel even more depressed. Similar  to other ‘bright occasions’, such as Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays, a snow day can force one to see how lousy they feel in comparison to the cheeriness of  others around them.

And to further complicate one’s mood during this time of year, many also have the post-holiday blues. The gifts have been unwrapped, the songs have been sung, and the cookies have been baked and eaten. It is time to pack up the holiday mementos and move on. Unfortunately, many experience feelings of guilt from overindulgence, feel bad due to unmet expectations, and miss the activity and social aspects of the holiday.

This is not, however, as depressing as it sounds, there’s a lot you can do to both prevent the blues from coming on and to get yourself back to feeling normal.

1.     Exercise and Eating
As if we needed another reason to stay healthy.  Exercise is great for relieving the stresses of life. Plus, the effects of a good workout can last for several hours after you hit the showers. And what you eat has a great impact on your mood. Foods that are devoid of nutrients (refined sugars, fatty foods, etc.) will zap your energy levels.

2.     Act on or make some Resolutions/Goals
This is a great time of year to set some new healthy goals. There is strong link between healthy behaviors and elevated moods. Those who continually engaged in healthy behaviors (like exercising, not smoking, eating better, regulating sleep, etc.) are less sad and depressed than those whose behaviors are less than healthy.

3.     Get Social Support
Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Who can you turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up? Keep a mental list of these special people and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Something as simple as a phone call, a chat over coffee, or a nice email can brighten your mood.

4.     Get Some Sun
Sunlight provides us with Vitamin D, which improves your mood. Try to spend some time outdoors keep your shades up during the day, and sit next to widows

Even if you don’t typical have mood concerns.  Winter weather often brings on some mild depression, lack of motivation, and low energy. Don’t despair; rather, recognize your emotions and do something about it.