by Kristin Kuiper, LMSW, MSW
Around this time of year, I hear a lot of complaints about the weather. I even complain myself sometimes! It is gray. It is cold. The snow never seems to end. Many clients that I have struggle with depression, and the symptoms they experience sometimes feel worse this time of year. The holidays and celebrations are over. Spring Break feels like it’s a long ways away. The sun doesn’t come out much. It’s easy to feel blue just thinking about our West Michigan climate this time of year. For many years, I’ve been hanging on to the notion that our summers make all of this winter gray worth it. How many of you agree with me?
I want to share some information about Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe you feel down and don’t feel like yourself—are you wondering if it’s connected to this season? When you look back on the past years, do certain patterns of your mood emerge based on the time of year? Our moods are affected by our hormones, by light, even by body temperature, all of which are affected by changes in season. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression—it’s beyond feeling like you have “cabin fever.” If you are feeling like you just cannot shake the “winter blahs” no matter what you’ve tried, you may want to read on…
Here are some signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you find that you experience a majority of these signs and have for the last several weeks, it might be time to seek some support. If left on its own, sometimes it resolves but there is a risk of this disorder turning into more severe depression.
- Social withdrawal, isolating yourself more than usual
- Lack of motivation, difficulty getting started with daily activities
- Increased appetite and/or weight gain
- increased sleep and/or drowsiness or sleepiness during the day
- General lack of energy, most noticeably in the afternoon hours
- Feeling down, tearful, or excessively irritable
There are many ways to start feeling better, even if you feel discouraged or hopeless today. In my next blog, I’ll share some practical ideas for how you can engage this season and stay healthy, despite the “winter blahs.”