Don’t Be SAD

Don’t Be SAD

It’s not in the DSM-V. It’s not a diagnosis that your insurance company will reimburse for. It is, however, something that I see evidence of in therapy quite a lot and that is what is known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Some people also refer to it as the winter blues. Even as I acknowledge that there seems to be something real about it, I also have to expand it to include other times of the year than just winter. Sometimes people struggle at other months or seasons because those are the seasons that are associated with difficult times or events. The anniversary of someone close to you passing away or the anniversary of a traumatic event can complicate one’s emotions on an annual basis.

Still, it becomes a topic in therapy most often in the winter months and in fact, I must admit that is not always an easy season of the year for me either. Here in Kentucky, we don’t get tons of snow or bitter cold days one after the other, but we do get some of both. What we get a lot of are cold, gray, short days. I often travel to and from work in the dark through the winter months.

Something I notice is that often people don’t remember that is how they are in the winter until they are already deep into it and deep into the lethargy or depressed mood. And if you don’t start working on it until it is already in full bloom, pulling out of the hole before springtime is really hard.

Allow me to suggest this. If you already know this is something you struggle with or if my talking about rings true to you, why not get a head start on making this coming winter one that is a bit easier. There are behaviors and habits that we have which make it worse and it would follow that if we can get ahead of those behaviors and habits, we might be able to soften the blow some.

  • Many people gain weight in the winter. The holidays come and there is a lot of good food but then we get caught up in the mode of comfort food eating, maybe even because we are starting to feel the blues. But then all that food ultimately makes it worse rather than better as we gain more weight. Start managing your food intake now and make your eating choices much more intentional.
  • Some people increase the amount of alcohol they consume in the winter months and again because they think it is comforting or whatever. Beware of any time or situation that tries to convince you that more drinking is a better choice. In fact, I would suggest intentionally drinking less than might be ok for you the rest of the year.
  • Some people become very lethargic in the winter. Putting on the coat and taking the walk seems such a chore and the less we do, the greater the inertia to overcome. Start or keep your exercise pattern intact and if you need some clothing that would make being outdoors for those walks more comfortable, that might be a good investment or Christmas present.
  • Some people struggle so much they often end up on anti-depressants for a few months or go to therapy. Speak with your MD now and see what they might recommend in terms of perhaps starting a little sooner or scheduling a few more therapy sessions while they are available.

Mostly I would say, don’t let it sneak up on you, Identify the tendency in yourself right away and begin now planning and doing what you might do differently this year to make the winter of 2021-22 a little less SAD.