Don’t Let the Winter Blues Bring You Down
Does it feel like something is sapping your energy and making you moodier than usual? Every winter, about one in 10 people in the Pacific Northwest experiences a unique kind of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It is brought on by shorter days and decreased sunlight during winter, which can disrupt the body’s sleep-wake rhythm and cause a hormone imbalance in melatonin (which affects sleep) and serotonin (which affects mood).
Sufferers have symptoms that start in October/November and go away by March/April. Signs of SAD include difficulty performing regular work tasks and interacting with people, along with one or more of these symptoms:
- Sadness, anxiety and irritability
- Tiredness, wanting to sleep more
- Decreased energy level
- Weight gain, increased appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased desire to be alone
Women are more likely to have SAD than men, but men may have more severe symptoms. It occurs more often in young people (18-30 years old) and is less likely in older adults.
Even if you don’t have SAD, the long days of winter may have an effect on you. Here are some strategies to reduce these symptoms:
- Spend some time outside every day, even when it’s cloudy
- Use a light therapy box when daylight hours begin to shorten
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables, even when you crave starchy, sweet foods
- Exercise at least 30 minutes, three times a week
How Your Health Plan Helps
If you think you have SAD, see your physician for an assessment. Your doctor may prescribe light therapy, or prescription medication as well as lifestyle changes to minimize symptoms. Your Health Plan also covers mental health services and certain services may require preauthorization. Please refer to your Benefits Plan Booklet for more information.