Game of Thrones fans know that “Winter Is Coming” is the motto for House Stark. But for the more than three million Americans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or “the winter blues,” the coming of shorter days and less sunshine is not just a fantasy catchphrase.
Those who struggle with SAD often begin experiencing symptoms in the early fall and continue into the dark and gloomy winter months. Since SAD can cause fatigue, anxiety, and apathy, preparing for it is just as important as prepping for the back to school and holiday seasons.
SAD is more likely to impact women between the ages of 20 to 30 years of age, who live in northern cities, according to Mental Health America, and the symptoms include: depressed mood, loss of energy, sleep problems, anxiety, irritability and difficulty concentrating (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Many also experience a change in appetite, particularly a craving for carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain.
Scientists believe SAD is caused by a biochemical change in the “biological clock” (circadian rhythm) when reduced sunlight triggers decreased serotonin and melatonin levels. Lower levels of vitamin D are also associated with increased symptoms of SAD, and an estimated one billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency. In one NIH study, adults who received high doses of vitamin D saw an improvement in their depressive symptoms after two months.
The “winter blues” can not only impact your personal life, but your work life as well. In fact, 1 in 3 American workers say winter has a negative impact on their mood at work.
That’s why it’s even more important to focus on your physical and mental wellbeing during the winter months. Here are a few steps to take to prepare when “Winter is coming”:
It’s normal to have bad days every now and then. But, if you’re feeling down for days on end or even weeks at a time, you may want to consider talking with your healthcare provider. Whether it’s SAD or something else, your doctor can ensure you are as strong as possible, both mentally and physically, to weather the storms.