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Posts Tagged ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’

Country road in fall

This time of year is always difficult for me. Unlike those of you who LOVE fall, I do not. Yes, you read that right, I do not like fall, not at all. For a long time, I couldn’t figure out why I don’t share the same love of Fall like so many. It turns out, I have the milder version of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) known as the Winter Blues. You might be thinking, but it’s not winter. Well, SAD or seasonal blues can occur anytime of the year. Symptoms are typically the opposite for people who have Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise, they start and end around the same time each year.

I knew this year would be especially challenging. I just sent my youngest child off to college in August and my older son who moved into an apartment in late spring. So, my husband and I are technically empty nesters. While he is excited, I don’t share his enthusiasm. I enjoyed having my kids at home and I still LOVE it when my sons stop by if just to do laundry or stay over. My daughter was home this past weekend for fall break and my younger son came home for a visit. It was nice to see and hug them, to hear what’s going on in their lives, and to hang out. While I don’t miss the extra dirty dishes, I do miss them.

Each new season brings change. While this season is especially difficult for me, I try to be proactive to help minimize the negative impacts. Some things that help me include EXERCISE, eating healthy, adequate sleep, connecting with loved ones, getting as much natural light as possible, and realizing that this too shall pass. I know about when my symptoms start and about when they end. This predictability of symptoms is actually what helped me realize that I experience the “winter blues,” just in the fall.

Group of young adults

The new season of being an empty nester has brought its share of change. While I miss my kids immensely, I know I raised healthy, well-adjusted, productive adults. There are times when I feel they don’t need me, then I get a phone call asking me about something, so they still need me, just in different ways. My daughter has had a cough for a couple of weeks (negative COVID), and she called asking me to drive 2.5 hours to go to the doctor with her! She has never been to the doctor without me, and she is scared. I had to keep myself from laughing. She’s very independent and hasn’t asked for my help navigating college and all that comes with it, yet she wants me to accompany her to the doctor! I asked her why she was scared She said she doesn’t want to fill out the paperwork. I told her she can call me if she has any questions. She was not thrilled that I would not come up, but she was more at ease knowing she can call me if needed.

This new season will continue to be an adjustment as we all figure out how to support each other in new or different ways. I am excited about what the future holds for my kids and for my husband and me. My young adult children are building their own lives and figuring out what they want to do in the next few years. My husband and I will be building our retirement home in the next several months and we are rehabbing a vintage camper to travel now and when we retire. All in all, this new season is filled with countless possibilities for us all!

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Ken Stewart, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Monroe County, stewart.1982@osu.edu

Sources:

Carter, S. (2017, September 21). It’s fall, it’s fall… I love it all! Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2017/09/25/its-fall-its-fall-i-love-it-all/

Harmon, M. (2019, October 21). Fall: A sad time of year. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/

Harmon, M. (2021, October 15). It’s Fall Y’all and the struggle is real. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/09/28/its-fall-yall-and-the-struggle-is-real/

Harmon, M. (2022, July 28). Empty nest-now what? Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved October 18, 2022, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2022/07/28/empty-nest-now-what/

Nelson, H. (2007, October 32). Advice for parents and guardians of college students: 6 pieces of first-year wisdom. Advice for Parents of College Students: 6 Pieces of First-Year Wisdom – Azusa Pacific University. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://www.apu.edu/articles/advice-for-parents-of-college-students-6-pieces-of-first-year-wisdom/

Scammahorn, R. (2021, September 8). Don’t delay, start saving today! Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/money/scammahorn-5osu-edu/dont-delay-start-saving-today/

Stewart, K. (2022, March 2). Getting financial aid without getting scammed. Live Smart Ohio. Retrieved October 21, 2022, from https://livesmartohio.osu.edu/money/stewart-1982osu-edu/getting-financial-aid-without-getting-scammed/

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Every time I go to the store lately I see things declaring, “Happy Fall Y’all!” or some variation. While many people love all things fall, I am not a fan. Yes, you read that correctly, I am not a fan of fall. First, the changing colors on the trees means the leaves are dying in preparation for the long, cold, dark months ahead. The marked shortening of the days means that soon it will be dark when I leave for work and dark again shortly after I get home. “Sweatshirt weather” means it’s too cold to swim or stand up paddle board, two things I enjoy. While we still have time to take our boat out, we will have to bundle up while doing so. Then there’s the dreary, rainy, blah days that are characteristic of fall in Ohio. So, while many of you are basking in the season, some of us are struggling.

Woman with hat pulled down over her face. Face has a grimace.

For many years I did not realize why I lack the excitement and anticipation of fall like so many people I know. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I have the winter blues, a milder form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that begins and ends about the same time each year. As the name implies and as many people understand it, winter blues and SAD often occur in winter, not late summer/early fall like my symptoms. After teaching about mental health, I finally realized that my disdain for fall actually has a cause. While winter blues and SAD typically DO occur later, they can actually occur ANY time of the year, and in fact, some people experience symptoms of SAD during the summer, sometimes referred to summer blues or summer depression. Since I do not have a background in mental health, I was surprised to learn this. Besides, how could ANYONE not LOVE summer and ALL that it offers? All joking aside, regardless of when someone experiences symptoms, there are things you can do to help.

As I looked back over my blog articles from the past, it appears I am inspired to write about this topic each year around this time. I think revisiting information about winter blues and SAD helps me to be more proactive in doing things to reduce my symptoms. The American Psychological Association provides these tips:

Person walking on a path through the woods with an umbrella.
  1. Experience as much daylight as possible.
  2. Eat healthily.
  3. Spend time with your friends and family.
  4. Stay active.
  5. Seek professional help.

I find exercising regularly, ideally outside, in addition to eating healthy, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and spending time with my family to be helpful in warding off symptoms. It usually takes me a bit to get into a groove, especially as the days get shorter and shorter. Once I am able to get into a routine, I find I can actually enjoy some of the characteristic fall activities, though summer will forever be my favorite season.

Some of the risk factors for SAD include:

  1. Being female. Women are four times as likely to develop SAD than men.
  2. Living far from the equator. One percent of Florida residents compared to nine percent of Alaska residents suffer from SAD.
  3. Family history. A family history of any type of depression increases the risk of developing SAD.
  4. Having depression or bipolar disorder. Depression symptoms may worsen with the seasons if you have another condition.
  5. Younger Age. Younger adults have a higher risk than older adults. SAD can occur in children and teens as well.

So, as I remember all the fun summer activities that are no more, I will focus on things I can do to help me make the most of the changing seasons. Just don’t expect to see any fall decorations at my house until mid-October!

As always, if you or someone you love is struggling, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional or a primary care physician.

Written by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Seasonal affective disorder. American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder.

Harmon, M. D. (2019, October 21). Fall: A sad time of year. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/.

Harmon, M. D. (2020, December 11). What’s so great about fall ya’ll? Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/10/08/whats-so-great-about-fall-yall/.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, October 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Michigan Medicine. (2020, September 23). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw169553.

Site-Name. (n.d.). Chestnut Health Systems. Get Help Now. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.chestnut.org/how-we-can-help/mental-health/learn-the-facts-mental-health/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/.

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a snow-covered landscape with trees

Winter is my least favorite season. The cold weather and shorter days make me want to hibernate, and I know I am not alone in feeling this way! Sluggishness and sleepiness, decreased energy, feeling less social, and changes in appetite are all symptoms of the “winter blues”. These symptoms can usually be managed through activities such as exercise, time outdoors, socialization and self-care. If you find that the winter blues are interfering with your ability to carry out daily activities, however, you may have a more serious form of the blues called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. SAD is a form of depression that follows a seasonal pattern. It usually begins in the fall, continues through the winter, and resolves in the spring. If you suspect that you have SAD, please be proactive and seek professional help.

For those of us who experience SAD or the winter blues, this season will be especially challenging as most of us have experienced or are currently experiencing the pandemic blues as well. In addition, some of the coping strategies we might normally use to beat the blues need to be modified due to the pandemic. For example, one of the strategies that experts recommend for beating the winter blues is interacting with friends and family regularly. If socializing with others is your primary coping strategy, it is important to understand potential risks of going out and what you can do to reduce the spread of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of COVID-19 spread is directly related to how closely we interact with others and the length of those interactions. If you choose to socialize with others in person, you can reduce your risk by wearing a mask, maintaining a distance of at least six feet, and choosing to meet outdoors rather than indoors.

Gathering outdoors in the winter may seem like an unrealistic or unpleasant option, but that is not always the case! This year is the perfect opportunity to shift your mindset and try something new. In a New York Times parenting column on outdoor winter playdates, author Elisabeth Kwak-Heffran quotes British guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” This column provides numerous tips from winter athletes and professionals for bundling up and enjoying the outdoors in cold weather. While this column makes the case for getting outside in the winter to break cabin fever, an added benefit is that outdoor time is another recommend strategy for beating the winter blues.

Do you want additional strategies for beating the winter blues? View our four session webinar series on beating the winter blues at https://livehealthyosu.com/webinars/.

Written by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Lorrissa Dunfee, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Belmont County

Sources:

Carter, S. (2014). Beating the Winter Blues. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2014/02/19/beating-the-winter-blues/

Carter, S. (2020). Beating the Pandemic Blues. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/08/31/beating-the-pandemic-blues/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Deciding to go out. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html

Harmon, M. (2019). Fall: A SAD Time of Year. Live Healthy, Live Well blog. https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/

Kwak-Heffran, E. (2020). Yes, your kids can play outside all winter. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/04/parenting/kids-winter-play-outside.html

Mayo Clinic (2017). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

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About a year ago, I wrote a blog titled Fall: A SAD Time of Year. I talked about my experience with the winter blues, a milder form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I contrasted symptoms of winter blues versus SAD, and I reviewed things you can do to alleviate symptoms. As I write this today, once again I find myself struggling with the change in the seasons. The shorter days, overcast skies, colder temperatures, dying plants, and turning leaves make me yearn for the long, hot, sunny days of summer. I know many people love fall, football, pumpkins and pumpkin spice everything, sweaters, cool temps and everything else this time of year brings, but I dread it.

dark foggy autumn woods

I don’t remember exactly when I started to loathe fall, but it was likely in my early 30’s. Research suggests winter blues or SAD usually begins between the ages of 18 and 30 but can begin at any age. I knew I dreaded fall more and more each year but I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally realized why I dislike fall so much, and it made so much sense. While symptoms of winter blues or SAD usually start in late fall to early winter for most people, I start noticing the effects in late summer to early fall. Summer is my favorite season, so I knowing it is ending likely adds to my earlier onset of symptoms.

man running along the roadside in the country

By the time winter sets in, I have taken steps to help reduce the effects of the winter blues. Once I quit resisting and dreading and loathing the change in seasons, and start being proactive, I notice a marked improvement in my mood, energy, motivation, and overall well-being. One critical component for me is exercise. I use exercise all year round to help with my mental health and overall well-being, but it’s even more critical during the fall and winter months. Running outside is my favorite, which is a win-win, if I can run during the day, since exposure to bright light can also help with symptoms. I worked as an exercise physiologist for 22+ years, so I am well-aware of the benefits of exercise but finding the motivation and energy this time of year is still sometimes a challenge. I am presenting a webinar on November 4th at 11am titled No Gym? No Problem where I will provide tips and tricks to work activity and exercise in to your day with little or no equipment.

This year, I notice that I am more tired than usual as the seasons are changing. I have tried sleeping more and sleeping less, but I have yet to find my sleep sweet spot right now. As I am adjusting, I am giving myself grace and permission to be OK with not being OK. We are all living in unprecedented times, and everyone has struggled in one way or another. This season is a struggle for me even in a good year, so there is no reason to beat myself up, especially this year! I hope you will give yourself and those around you some grace and allow yourself and others to be OK with not being OK. Of course, if you feel like you need professional help, please don’t hesitate to seek out that assistance. Mental health is critical to overall health and well-being and I want us all to have both now and well into the future.

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Sources:

Harmon, M. (2019, October 21). Fall: A SAD Time of Year. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/

Rush University Medical Center. (n.d.). More Than Just the Winter Blues? Retrieved from https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

Robinson, L., Segal, J., Ph.D., & Smith, M., M.A. (2019, June). The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise. Retrieved October 07, 2020, from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Division of Viral Diseases. (2020, September 11). Personal and Social Activities. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/personal-social-activities.html#event

Bohlen, A. (2020, September 17). Pizza for dinner again! Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/09/17/pizza-for-dinner-again/

Carter, S. (2020, August 31). Beating the Pandemic Blues. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/08/31/beating-the-pandemic-blues/

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Light box that says "have a break"

The time of year is upon us where the sun is setting between 4:30pm and 5:30pm. It can really take a toll on us mentally and physically. In October, fellow blogger Misty Harmon shared a personal story about experiencing the winter blues in Fall: A SAD Time of Year. She went on to share the symptoms, risk factors and treatments associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). One of those treatment options is light therapy. Research shows that light therapy is a highly effective addition to a person’s treatment routine. For some individuals who experience milder symptoms of SAD, light therapy may be sufficient.

How do light boxes work?

The purpose of a therapy light box is to mimic outdoor light to create a chemical change in your brain. The theory behind the box is that it will lift and lighten your mood easing other symptoms of SAD. In order for light boxes to be beneficial, they need to provide a certain amount of lighting. Lighting requirements are usually measured in units called lux. The light boxes need to have an exposure of 10,000 lux of light and emit as little UV light as possible.

When is the best time to use a light box?

The best time to use a light box is within the first hour of waking up in the morning. A person should sit about 16 to 24 inches away from the light with their eyes open for 20 to 30 minutes. Please do not look directly at the light. When you purchase a light box, make sure it is specifically designed for treating SAD. You can find a list here.

If you or someone you know is experiencing SAD, I would encourage you to try a light box. It might just make this Christmas a little brighter.

Writer: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

Harmon, M. (2019, October 21). Fall: A SAD Time of Year. Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/

Leister, J. (2019, December). Lighten Up this December. Retrieved from https://osuhealthplan.com/content/lighten-december?utm_source=osu_health_plan_yp4h&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=201903_corp_myhealth&utm_content=20191212

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It wasn’t until recently that I came to realize that I most likely experience the winter blues, which is more mild than Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I have never been a fan of fall (I know all of you fall-lovers just took a collective gasp) or winter. In fact, it is more accurate to say I despise them. Up until a few years ago, I never really connected the dots of my dislike of fall and winter to the possibility that I have the winter blues, or perhaps SAD.

In 2017 I became a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Instructor. MHFA is designed to help regular people be able to recognize and better understand if someone they know is developing a mental health issue and how to help them. MHFA also teaches how to respond to someone having a mental health crisis. It wasn’t until I started teaching MHFA that I realized that the symptoms of SAD are similar to things I experience as fall approaches.

While I experience many of the symptoms of SAD, I am still able to enjoy my life and carry out my daily activities. The milder form of SAD is often called the winter blues. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the symptoms someone with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) may experience include:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

While fall and winter SAD are the most common, some people have symptoms during spring and summer. According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms related specifically to fall and winter SAD , also known as winter depression, are:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

The symptoms most often associated with spring and summer SAD, also known as summer depression, are:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

While the exact cause of SAD is not known, there are some factors that may come in to play. According to an article by Rush University Medical Center, these are some of the possible mechanisms:

  • Dips in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
  • Disruptions in circadian rhythms (your body’s internal clock), which help control sleep-wake cycles.
  • Alterations in melatonin, a hormone associated with both mood and sleep.

Some risk factors for SAD include:

  • Family history.
  • Having major depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Living far from the equator.

Some treatments for SAD include:

  • Exposure to sunlight.
  • Light therapy.
  • Psychotherapy.
  • Antidepressants.

In addition to these treatments, a University of Rochester Medical Center article gives these steps you can take to help ease symptoms:

  • Get help.
  • Set realistic goals in light of the depression.
  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone.
  • Do things that make you feel better.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Expect your mood to get better slowly, not right away.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Stay away from alcohol and drugs.
  • Delay big decisions until the depression has lifted.
  • Realize that people don’t often snap out of a depression.
  • Try to be patient and focus on the positives.
  • Let your family and friends help you.

So, if you or someone you know experiences either the winter blues or SAD, there is hope beyond the longer, sunny days of spring and summer. Anyone who has severe symptoms should seek professional help, especially if there are ever any thoughts of suicide or harm. I have not sought professional help, as I do not have any severe symptoms. My symptoms mainly involve lack of energy, sluggishness, mild agitation, and cravings. I have made it a point to get more exposure to light, especially earlier in the day, and I try to eat as healthy as possible and be as active as possible. Being proactive in these ways is enough to help ease my symptoms.

Written by:

Written by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Photo Sources:

https://pixabay.com/photos/man-face-confused-head-depression-416473/

https://pixabay.com/photos/desperate-sad-depressed-hopeless-2100307/

References:

More Than Just the Winter Blues? Rush University Medical Center. Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/more-just-winter-blues

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). (2017). Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Found on 10/20/19 at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. University of Rochester Medical Center. Retrieved 10/20/19 from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=85&contentid=P00755

National Council for Behavioral Health. (2019). Retrieved on 10/20/19 from: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/

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I love everything about fall… bright blue skies, the return to school and routine, crisp temperatures, apples, pumpkins, cinnamon spice candles, and the changing color of trees. I get so much joy from seeing the beautiful array of fall foliage. I actually feel more energetic during the fall. I tend to do more “fall cleaning” at home instead of “spring cleaning.” Sometimes, I even have enough energy to start some home renovation or painting projects.

fall

So in the spring while many are doing their spring cleaning, I tend to feel more stressed by the busy schedule with my children’s school and mounting yardwork. I need to remind myself that spring is not my season to tackle cleaning or extra projects, and not feel guilty about my lack of motivation.

Maybe you’re one who struggles with the shortened daylight hours and lack energy in the fall. There are many who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. The degree to which people are affected can be minimal to severe. If you find that your normal functioning is impaired or you experience significant depression, you might consider seeking help from a doctor or mental health professional.

It’s important to know yourself and what season best suits you, in order to plan your projects and activities to match your energy level. So how do you know what your season is? There is actually a self-assessment you can take to determine your seasonality. But the main question to consider is: in which seasons do you tend to feel the best, or feel the worst? Do you have significant changes on your sleeping and eating patterns from season to season? Do you tend to be more social or energetic in certain seasons?

Knowing your season can help you adjust your activities and schedule accordingly when possible. For more ideas on how to find out how seasonal you are, check out this article by Norman Rosenthal.

No matter your season, you can follow these tips to help yourself during the less energetic times:

Eat healthy. Resist the urge to default to comfort foods, as the extra fat and sugar make us feel worse. Look for heart-healthy, low-calorie foods to help you feel your best.

Stay active. Try to find ways to enjoy the season, whatever it is. Exercise can boost your mood and your immune system.

Stay connected. Spending time with family and friends is critical to fighting isolation.

Seek help. A mental health professional can help you identify problem areas and develop a plan to work through them. Maybe you need to adjust your goals.

 

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County

Sources:

American Psychological Association. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved Sep 20, 2017 from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/seasonal-affective-disorder.aspx.

Norman Rosenthal, N. How Seasonal Are You? Assessing and treating seasonality. Posted Dec 22, 2008 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-mind-your-body/200812/how-seasonal-are-you?collection=106209.

Seasonal Pattern Assessment Questionnaire. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved Sep 20, 2017 from http://www.ubcmood.ca/sad/spaq-sad.pdf.

 

 

 

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post-95090_1920

For many people, the cold winter months bring an onset of what is described as the winter blues.  The colder, darker winter months can cause a change in our moods and our behaviors.  Some examples are sleeping more, becoming more irritable, eating more, and avoiding friends or social situations.

Dr. Emma Seppala, Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University and Co-Director of the Yale College Emotional Intelligence Project at Yale University, offers these tips for beating the winter blues:

  • CONNECT
    • One great way to connect to others in the winter months is to volunteer, at a shelter, a food bank, a nursing home, or at an after school program.
    • Another way is to stay active.  Join a fitness class.  Invite some friends to go on a walk or meet at a gym to shoot some hoops.
  • BREATHE
    • Practice mindfulness activities, like yoga or meditation, to help center your thoughts and help you to relax.
  • SAVOR
    • Be present in whatever activity you are engaged in. Turn off the cell phones and focus on where you are and who are you are with.
    • Curl up with your loved ones (spouse, childen, grandchildren) under a warm and cozy, blanket and read a book or watch a funny movie.
    • Eat healthier meals and take time to eat at a leisurely pace.

If you find that the winter blues are interfering with your daily activities for a period longer than two weeks, please consult your family physician or a mental health professional.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mood disorder that is categorized as a type of depression and occurs during months where individuals have less exposure to natural sunlight that can be treated with appropriate medical help.

Written By: Jami Dellifield, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Hardin County, Ohio State Extension, dellifield.2@osu.edu

Reviewed By:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Fayette County, Ohio State University Extension, brinkman.93@osu.edu

SOURCES:

Sepalla, Emma M. PhD, “3 Definitive Ways to Beat The Winter Blues”, Psychology Today. Web January 20, 2016 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/feeling-it/201601/3-definitive-ways-beat-winter-blues

https://www.mentalhealth.gov/what-to-look-for/mood-disorders/seasonal-affective-disorder/index.html

REFERENCES:

Roecklein, Kathryn A., Rohan, Kelly J., PhD, “Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview and Update”, Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2005 Jan; 2(1): 20–26. Published online 2005 Jan. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004726/

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/Pages/dealing-with-winter-blues-sad.aspx

“Information from Your Doctor: Seasonal Affective Disorder”, American Family Physician. 2000 Mar 1;61(5):1531-1532. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0301/p1531.html

PHOTO CREDIT:

https://pixabay.com/en/post-light-lamp-outside-95090/

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As the bitter temperatures and snow continue to prolong spring’s arrival, I’ve heard many people say “I’m done with winter!” Do you find yourself feeling the effects of the long winter, maybe being cooped up without enough fresh air or sunlight? Perhaps you’re suffering from ‘cabin fever’ or ‘winter blues.’

The decrease in natural light in winter months can actually change one’s brain chemistry. Levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin drop in winter months while levels of sleep-promoting melatonin increase. The combination of changes in these two brain chemicals can lead to mild depression or the more serious condition of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD may include sleeping too much, eating too much, decreased energy, decreased ability to concentrate and social withdrawal. If any of these symptoms begin to interfere with your ability to function at home or work, you may need to seek professional diagnoses and treatment. Your doctor can work with you to develop a treatment to help you through the winter months.

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There are things you can do to combat the winter blues, according to Dr. Mark Frye, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic.

• Get outside – Natural light is good for you. Take a break at lunch and go for a walk.

• Light Therapy Boxes – These can help if you’re unable to get outdoors.

• Exercise – Try for at least three times a week for 30 minutes.

• Socialize – Interact with family and friends on a regular basis.

Winter won’t last forever… spring IS coming! Until then, use these tips to elevate your mood and energy and to live healthy AND well!

Source:

Hanson, Nick. “Experts Offer Advice to Avoid Winter Blues” Mayo Clinic News Network. http://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/experts-offer-advice-to-avoid-winter-blues

Image source: <a href=”http://www.4freephotos.com/Couple_walking_in_snow-image-c4f8a5092e0211a44f2d21a148f8b937.html”>Couple walking in snow from 4freephotos.com</a>

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

 

 

 

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