SAD is an acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder in which some people can experience low moods, lethargy, disinterest in daily activities, isolation and disconnectedness from social connections in winter months. It can affect people of any age group, women more than men with a ratio of 3:1.
Since winter is here, and people are packing themselves under layers of clothing and windows are being sealed off with polythene sheets and dense blankets, it creates the perfect environment for people to develop this type of depression that will last until spring arrives. If you are noticing these changes in yourself or any of your family members, like overeating sweet and starchy foods, oversleeping, difficulty getting out of bed and doing daily chores, cancelling plans and spending more and more time alone, you may want to pay attention to your mental health as this is a manageable condition but if left untreated it can paralyse a person psychologically.
A trigger for most people in these months is the lack of light, grey atmosphere, and lack of mobility. To manage this condition, you can start with getting a daily dose of natural light, even if it is cloudy outside. If someone you know develops these symptoms during winters, it may be helpful to change bulbs for winter months and install bulbs with more watts, keep some greenery in your living area, installing more bright colored curtains or sheets, and especially avoiding covering windows with dark blankets. Apart from light therapy, being connected with people and keeping up a social life is extremely important in these months to maintain good mental health. Light is subject to power cuts, but social relations can lighten even the darkest days.
People with this condition may gain weight in winter months because they tend to eat more to compensate for low moods. Being more conscious of what you’re eating and having a good diet is recommended. Sleep also needs to be managed in these months. Getting out of bed may be the most difficult thing you’ll experience during the day and only you can understand the struggle but if you want to keep afloat in these harsh months, it is essential that you do not pull the covers over your face in the morning and sleep more than you should. Maintain a good routine as your mental health depends upon it.
And lastly, if winter is here, you should keep reminding yourself that spring must be just around the corner.
Nahal, a Psychologist, is a counsellor with Doctors Without Borders