Winter making you tired? It might be SAD
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a medically-recognized condition of depression in which sufferers experience extreme fatigue and oversleeping paired with a desire for carbohydrates which can lead to weight gain. That’s a simple explanation for a very complex situation.
Some research has suggested nine times as many women compared to men suffer from SAD. In two to six percent of Canadians, its symptoms become debilitating. For that percentage of people, it can seriously affect their jobs and relationships. Others, about an additional 16 percent of Canadians, suffer to a lesser extent but still feel the impact in how they do their jobs and interact with people.
The Canadian Mental Health Association shares a great list to check and see if you may be suffering from SAD:
- I feel like sleeping all the time, or I’m having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
- I’m tired all the time, it makes it hard for me to carry out daily tasks
- My appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
- I’m gaining weight
- I feel sad, guilty and down on myself
- I feel hopeless
- I’m irritable
- I’m avoiding people or activities I used to enjoy
- I feel tense and stressed
- I’ve lost interest in sex and other physical contact
Don’t diagnose yourself. If you’re suffering from many of these symptoms and they’re affecting those around you and your job, talk to your doctor. It may not be SAD; it may another form of depression.
What can you do about it?
- Find the light. Sit near a window whenever you can; trim trees and hedges around the windows of your home so more light gets in during the winter. There are special lightboxes available that deliver the right kind of light to combat SAD. You can order them online and they range in price from about $60 to over $300.
- Go outside. Yes, it’s winter time and, if you live in Canada, it’s likely cold out. Bundle up whenever the sun’s out and catch those rays. Natural daylight is your friend in the winter months to stave off the blues.
- Avoid carbohydrates. People with SAD often find themselves craving carbohydrates. They make carbohydrate choices rather than proteins, fruits or vegetables. Be mindful of this when doing your meal planning. Exchange a bowl of pasta for a salad with nuts and have an omelette for breakfast rather than a bowl of sugary cereal.
- Make Vitamin D food choices. Vitamin D is available as a vitamin supplement and you can also find it in your food. Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fish like trout and salmon, dairy products fortified with vitamin D, eggs, fortified tofu, wild mushrooms (commercially grown mushrooms tend to be grown in the dark so don’t have high levels of vitamin D).
- Include fruits and vegetables. A recent study has noticed adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet benefits those with forms of depression.
- Stay active. It can be a challenge but force yourself to be physically active. Even if it just means dancing in your kitchen. Take walks, develop an exercise routine or seriously, turn on some music and dance.
- Stay engaged. Don’t cut yourself from your friends and family. Be mindful of this; make a conscious effort to go out and see friends, visit with family. That human connection can pull you out of the doldrums.
SAD seems to be more prevalent the further north you live and there’s a chance it’s also hereditary.
Take care of yourself and get the help you need to do so. If you’re suffering from SAD, or think you might be, ask your family or friends to help you combat it by staying connected with you, asking you to participate and partnering on active living. Talk to your doctor if it’s affecting your relationships and your job.