Beating the Winter Blues: Tips for Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Jan 27, 2023

Beating the Winter Blues: Tips for Combating Seasonal Affective Disorder

Winter in New York State is often associated with holiday memories and dazzling snowy landscapes. Unfortunately, it can also be cold, dark and gloomy. As the days get shorter and temperatures drop, people tend to spend more time staying warm indoors and less time socializing and staying active. For many people, the combination of cold weather and shorter days can negatively impact mental health. For some, this seasonal mood change is characterized as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder—aptly acronymized as “SAD”—is a common mood disorder that impacts more than 3 million people every year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as 9 percent of people residing in northern states like New York may experience SAD.

SAD’s impacts can vary from a minor drop in serotonin (often dubbed the “winter blues”) to major depressive episodes. The effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder can be truly debilitating, so it is important to know the symptoms and begin to combat them when you notice a significant change in your mood or the mood of a loved one.

Here are some ideas for activities that may help to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder and help lift your spirits this winter:

Know the Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it may be time to seek help and make some changes.

  • Feeling depressed for most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Having low energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in weight and/or appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating

Exercise and Go Outside Regularly

During cold seasons, it is especially easy to get into the habit of staying indoors. Lethargic behavior and decreased exposure to sunlight are both causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder. You can eliminate both problems by regularly taking walks outside during daylight hours.

Other forms of exercise such as yoga can also help improve your mood. Exercising increases serotonin levels and improves mind-body connection.


Make Plans and Keep Busy

Since many major holidays are in the winter, it is easy to stay busy by preparing for family get-togethers and other events. Whether you’re preparing a meal or adorning your house with festive d├ęcor, there’s always something that you can do to distract yourself and keep busy.

Use a SAD Therapy Lamp

One of the most common treatments for SAD is light therapy. This involves exposure to light from a special type of lamp that mimics natural sunlight. Studies have shown that light therapy can significantly decrease the effects of SAD and improve overall mood. Seasonal Affective Disorder lamps are sold by many online retailers and at some drug stores.


Seek Help From a Mental Health Professional

If the symptoms persist, it may be time to seek further help from a qualified mental health professional.

Most mental health professionals are well-versed in treatments for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Supplements, medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are some of the options they may offer to you. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health and there is no shame in seeking help.

These tips should help you to identify and combat Seasonal Affective Disorder if it ever arises so that you can enjoy all the positive aspects of winter.