S.A.D.? You're Not Alone

January 22, 2024

S.A.D.? You're Not Alone

The winter months can be difficult for our mental health. It’s estimated that 10-20% of the U.S. population deals with the “winter blues,” but for some, it is more of a challenge: a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). An estimated five percent of people in the U.S. experience SAD. According to the American Psychiatric Association, common symptoms of SAD mirror those of depression. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, loss of energy, changes in appetite, and mental symptoms of feeling sad, loss of interest and pleasure, and difficulty concentrating can also occur.

Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to improve our mood during the doldrums of winter. At JF&CS, we offer some practical solutions. Our Frances Bunzl Clinical Services team can provide some therapeutic suggestions, and our Volunteer Services team offers individual and family activities throughout the year to get you out of the house and socializing with others.

Whether the symptoms are mild or severe, “know that you don’t have to navigate this alone,” says Julie Zeff, LCSW, CPCC, JF&CS Clinician and Certified Life Coach. “Around this time of year, people are often getting out less, whether it’s due to the weather or darkness, and that can lead to isolation and loneliness.”

“One-on-one therapy can help you make sense of the feelings you’re experiencing and develop tools to cope,” says Julie. “One of my favorite tools is simple but very effective: grounding yourself by connecting with your senses.”

“Whether it’s noticing the rhythm or sound of your breath, the taste of a hot drink, the scent and beauty of a lit candle, or the warmth of a cozy blanket, taking a moment to really experience these sensations can pull you back into the present moment,” says Julie. “That’s really important because we can handle anything in the present moment; it’s when we’re in our heads worrying about the future or regretting the past that feelings of anxiety and depression can worsen.”

Lifestyle changes like eating a nutritious diet and getting regular exercise will help manage symptoms. Similarly, medications like SSRI’s and supplements can also assist with treating symptoms of SAD. Light therapy is another effective tool for treating SAD. Light boxes mimic natural sunlight while filtering out UV rays, and they can be a helpful supplement during the winter months. Light therapy is thought to ease symptoms by affecting brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Additionally, volunteering has powerful effects: according to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering reduces stress and boosts happiness by releasing the important brain chemical dopamine. At JF&CS we have fun opportunities for people of all ages and interests to get involved. Whether you want to volunteer for just a day or commit to something regular, we can find the right place for you.

If you suspect that you may have SAD, reach out to us at Frances Bunzl Clinical Services. Or consider volunteering. And remember — spring will be here before you know it!

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