Don’t Be SAD – Improve Your Mood
Health and wellness are important to us here at KIG – it’s even part of our corporate culture. After all, we are in the health insurance business! And we know that at the beginning of every year, wellness becomes top of mind for many people as they look at the next 12 months as an opportunity to better themselves.
But instead of harping on the typical (albeit important) New year’s resolutions like losing weight, quitting smoking or insisting (again) that you will not spend every waking moment scrolling through social media, we thought we’d focus on a disorder that affects millions, particularly at this time of year: Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is SAD?
It’s no coincidence that Seasonal Affective Disorder is abbreviated SAD. A type of recurring depression, SAD is commonly mistaken as simply a case of the “winter blues.” At this time of year, you may leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark, leaving you little time to enjoy the daylight. With less sunlight and, consequently, less exposure to Vitamin D, it is natural to feel “down” at this time of year, particularly after the hustle and joy of the holidays.
But for some, the symptoms can be overwhelming and can interfere with daily living. SAD most often begins in autumn and continues through winter. But, to be sure, it can occur at any time of year.
According to Psychology Today:
- Seasonal Affective Disorder affects about 5% of all U.S. adults (about 12.3 million). But that number could be much higher because the disorder is not commonly diagnosed.
- Women are 4 times as likely to suffer from SAD as men.
- Most affected are people ages 18 to 30.
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of SAD can include:
- Having low energy and frequently feeling sluggish
- Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- 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
In fall and winter, sufferers are more likely to experience oversleeping, changes in appetite, weight gain and low energy. In spring and summer, symptoms are more likely to be the opposite: insomnia, poor appetite, weight loss, anxiety and increased irritability.
The cause of SAD is not entirely known, according to Psychology Today. Evidence suggests that it is related to the body’s level of melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, preparing the body for sleep. Because winter days are darker for (much) longer, melatonin production increases, making people feel more lethargic. It’s why you may not feel like leaving the house once it gets dark outside. People with SAD may also produce less Vitamin D, a lack of which is associated with symptoms of depression.
SAD can be treated in several ways, including light therapy, talk therapy and, in more extreme cases, with antidepressants. While symptoms will generally improve on their own with the change of seasons, symptoms can improve more quickly with treatment. For those with mild SAD, simply being exposed to more sunlight can help noticeably. Get outside, when possible, and if your 9 to 5 has you stuck indoors, try arranging your workspace so you are facing a window during the day.
Here are some other resources from our partner, UPMC:
If the symptoms above sound familiar and you think you may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder, talk to your doctor. If your condition is severe, you can find help at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).