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Your Mental Health

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Overcoming Seasonable Affective Disorder

by Julianna Strano

As the seasons change throughout the year so do our emotions, thoughts, feelings, and lives. During the winter months the sunsets early, the weather is colder, the holidays come and go, and we tend to spend more time indoors. Winter months have the power to take a toll on and impact the mental health of many individuals.

Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is common during the winter months and affects the mental well-being of many individuals.

The Mayo Clinic states, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months.”

Common signs of SAD include:

  • Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day

  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed

  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish

  • Having problems with sleeping too much

  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain

  • Having difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

Common signs that are specific to the winter season include:

  • Oversleeping

  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates

  • Weight gain

  • Tiredness or low energy

The holiday season can also take a toll on the mental wellbeing of many people. According to The National Alliance of Mental Health, 64% of those who are affected by mental illnesses feel that their conditions are worse during the holiday. Holidays tend to be busy and can bring abut stress and worries in the lives of many individuals.

The winter months often mean less sunlight each day. An article by Healthline.com explains that having the correct balance of sunshine can help our moods. 

“Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused,” as stated in the Healthine.com article.

The National Alliance of Mental Health explains the importance of talking about our feelings and mental health in general. They explain how talking with someone can improve our mood and reduce our levels of stress.

There are many factors that can contribute to the increased levels of stress and overwhelmed feelings. It’s important to remember that when we feel these emotions to listen to them and not push them away.

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Julianna Strano is a recent graduate from The University of Arizona where she graduated with a degree in both journalism and sociology. Julianna is passionate about all topics related to health and wellness and has the goal of educating and informing others through her writing. Julianna joined the editorial staff of Today's Patient to have the opportunity to help educate others on patient rights and her many articles reflect that.

December 2022  page 3

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