Anxiety, sadness, loneliness, lack of motivation. Are you suffering from the holiday blues or seasonal affective disorder? Knowing the difference between the two can get you on the road to recovery sooner.
‘Tis the (winter) season
If you have feelings of anxiety and sadness over specific holiday topics like gift budgets, too many commitments and lack of time to get everything done, your reaction may likely be to the specific holiday season.
On the other hand, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the change in seasons. Most symptoms begin and end the same timeframe each year. When the days are shorter, the weather turns colder and there is a better chance of rain or snow, SAD can set in.
Common factors that can cause SAD include:
- Your biological clock (circadian rhythm): Decreased sunlight can disrupt the body’s internal clock.
- Serotonin levels: Serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood. Reduced sunlight can cause serotonin levels to drop, possibly leading to depression.
- Melatonin: Changing seasons can disrupt the body’s balance of melatonin, which can affect sleep cycles and mood.
There are ways to overcome SAD even on the dreariest winter days:
- Light therapy: A special device called a light therapy box mimics natural outdoor light. Research suggests daily exposure to the light can reduce SAD symptoms.
- Psychotherapy: This counseling experience helps patients identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors and provides ways to work through stress
- Changes to your physical environment: Opening blinds, trimming tree branches that block light and installing sky windows are all examples of changes that can brighten the inside of your home and your emotions.
- Exercise: Whether it’s going to an exercise class or walking around the neighborhood, exercising the body helps the mind as well.