Depression can affect anyone and everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, social and economic status or gender. But a form of depression that is not talked about enough is seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD. 

seasonal affective disorder

What is SAD?

SAD is a form of depression where people are affected negatively by shorter, darker days due to seasonal changes. For example, summer days in Ohio are longer and warmer, while winter days end with the sun setting around 5 p.m. and the weather turning colder. 

Who does SAD affect?

SAD can affect nearly anyone, but especially those who live in parts of the world where seasonal changes are more extreme. According to HelpGuide, women and younger people are affected the most out of any other group of people. 

What are the symptoms of SAD?

Fatigue and mild depression are very common in people experiencing SAD. Other symptoms can include:

  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Change in appetite 
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling hopeless or guilty
  • Depression
  • Stress and irritability
  • Decreased interest in usual activities

depressed man looking out the window, SAD

How does SAD affect me?

SAD can affect your body due to many factors, with circadian rhythm being one of them. So, what is a circadian rhythm? A circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. Once established, your body will know when it’s time for bed versus time to wake up, and it will know when it’s time to eat. For instance, if you are someone who wakes up at 8 a.m. every day, eats lunch at noon and goes to sleep by 10 p.m., your body will get into the habit of adjusting to those patterns. Because of the established routine, extreme changes in weather or daylight will interrupt your body’s circadian rhythm and throw your body out of sorts thus causing changes in temperament and other bodily functions.

Other causes of SAD can include the production of melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin is the hormone that triggers sleep and serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood. When the balance of melatonin or serotonin is off, your body can begin to feel drowsy or lacking energy. Reduced sunlight causes lower levels of serotonin making it more likely to become depressed and lose interest in normal activities while an increase in melatonin will cause you to become sleepier. 

How can I avoid SAD?

It’s not easy to avoid SAD as it is your body’s go-to state when it is thrown off by seasonal changes. It’s also difficult for a doctor to diagnose patients with SAD, which is why it is important to ensure you are taking care of yourself year-round to help ease the symptoms of SAD. Read the below tips to help lessen the symptoms of SAD and improve self-care.

  • Get some exercise

Exercising has many benefits on your body and mind. If you have any built-up stress or tension, exercising can help release negative thoughts or feelings. If you do not have exercise equipment or belong to a gym, try taking a walk outside. The fresh air and natural light from the sun can also help to improve your mood, regardless of temperature.

  • Read a book

If you haven’t picked up reading, now is the time! SAD can make you feel disconnected from the world, and diving into a good book can help make you feel a part of something and pique your interest again. You may feel motivated by a storyline or connect with the characters in the book. 

  • Journal

At times when it feels like no one is listening, journaling can be beneficial. Journaling helps you put your feelings together and write down whatever is bothering you. There are many forms of journaling such as guided journaling, bullet journaling, etc. Guided journals can be bought online through companies like Amazon and bullet journaling is as easy as writing short sentences of fragments in a notebook. 

  • Pick up a hobby

Colder weather can affect your usual outdoor activities or daily routine, so picking up a new hobby can help ease your boredom or anxiety levels. There are plenty of fun and engaging hobbies to dive into while staying indoors. If you’re crafty, try knitting or scrap-booking. If you’re not-so crafty, try learning a new language or cooking.

depressed woman waking up, in bed

How can On Demand Counseling benefit me?

On Demand Counseling offers mental health services in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties. Counseling can be beneficial when you are wondering how to avoid SAD. Counseling and mental health services can help in the prevention and treatment of mental illnesses. Call us today at 330-270-8610 or visit our website for more information.