As the days get shorter and outdoor temperatures drop, many of us find ourselves staying indoors more often. Sometimes fatigue sets in and we have trouble concentrating. This may actually be a sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If we are able to recognize what is happening and get ourselves back in the groove again, all the better. However, for some of us, depressive episodes may set in during the fall and winter months, compromising our ability to develop a more positive body image and nurture a healthier relationship with food.
Researchers believe that SAD is triggered by lack of sunlight. More than half of those who experience SAD are women, and many of them also face challenges with eating. While no one knows what exactly causes SAD, evidence points to the lack of sunlight. The increased amount of darkness from September to May can impact our melatonin levels. When our bodies are in the dark, we produce melatonin, which enables us to sleep. Too much melatonin can affect our mood and energy levels, while less melatonin may affect our body’s production of serotonin, which greatly impacts our mood.
If we recognize how the change in seasons affects our mood and outlook, we can adopt strategies that will help us feel better and be healthier. The following are some suggestions:
- First and foremost, say no to the guilt trip. Our genetic propensity, as well as our past experiences and environmental factors, have a lot to do with the challenges we face. Others around us may not be affected by the lack of sunlight or issues involving food. That does not mean we are somehow inferior to them; they likely face other challenges that we may not see.
- Go outside as much as possible. Find reasons to step outdoors when the sun is shining, whether to do an errand, visit an elderly neighbor, or to take a walk.
- Consider light therapy. Research indicates that increased exposure to light may help alleviate symptoms up to 50 percent.
- Volunteer. The world needs you and your unique talents. Election season is upon us; perhaps one can work at a polling station or lend a hand to helping others who have not registered to vote. Other possibilities exist, particularly during the pandemic when many people are in need.
We cannot stop the sun from setting earlier during the fall and winter seasons, but we do have the power to choose how we will respond. Our feelings and concerns are very real, but so is the resilience within our spirits to seek a better way.
When we embrace our uniqueness and open ourselves up to love and acceptance, new possibilities burst forth. Individual therapy and group sessions can also help us navigate the way. Joanne Gerr, L.C.S.W. offers therapy sessions that may help you along in your journey. To join a support group or for individual counseling, call 212-750-8130 or fill out an online form today. Located in Manhattan and Highland Park, New Jersey, our New Jersey therapist helps individuals throughout Highland Park, East Brunswick, Manalapan Township, Marlboro, Westfield, and New York City.