Living Well: Feeling sad? — Could be because it’s January
If you are feeling fatigued, depressed, or hopeless and experiencing social withdrawal, you could be suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. SAD is a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs the same time every year. It can start as early as the fall and continue through the winter months. SAD is sometimes known as “seasonal” or “winter” depression.
Or could your mood be attributed to the post-holiday blues? Remember how busy you were in December with all the planning, holiday events, shopping, and baking? Does the January calendar look pretty open? You might be experiencing the disappointment of unrealistic expectations of what the holidays would bring. It’s common to feel “let-down” after so much hype in December.
Whether you think you’re feeling the post-holiday blues, or something more serious that might require consultation with a health care provider, this article might help you determine the best next steps for you. And in both cases, the short cold days don’t provide us the mood boosting sunshine we get the rest of the year. Adults and children can be affected by either of these conditions.
Seasonal affective disorder
Symptoms (lasting more than a few weeks)
• anxiety, apathy, general discontent, loneliness, loss of interest, mood swings, sadness
• excess sleepiness, insomnia, sleep deprivation
• appetite changes, weight gain, weight loss
• Self-Care: Physical exercise for 20 to 30 minutes five days per week improves cardiovascular health. If you can walk outside and soak up some sunshine at the same time, all the better. Remember, if it’s too cold and you are at risk of other health challenges, you might want to find an inside alternative.
• Therapy: Talk to your primary care provider to decide if talk therapy or perhaps medication could be appropriate for you. Light therapy is also used to replace natural sunlight and is common in areas of the world with very short days.
Symptoms (usually lasting only a few weeks)
- general sadness, headaches, insomnia, trouble sleeping
- anxiety, weight gain or loss, agitation
• Take some of what you enjoyed most about the holidays and continue with them. If you enjoyed seeing family and friends, take proactive steps to invite them for dinner or game night. Remember, they might be feeling a little blue as well.
• Be grateful for the positives in your life and the good times you had over the holidays. Look at and share the best photos from the holidays; consider starting a gratitude journal.
• Have a least one thing planned each week you look forward to. Perhaps start a new hobby.
• Buy tickets to a movie. Get outside and downhill or cross-country ski, snowshoe, or start an old-fashioned snowball fight.
• Set New Year’s goals, but only if they are realistic and don’t add to your sadness.
• Eat well. Skip the sugar, and lower your alcohol, both more tempting in December.
• Find a volunteer opportunity. It’s a great way to remove the focus from yourself and feel good doing something for others.
* Sources: Psychology Today, Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders