Seasonal Depression: Beating the Winter Blues

January 12, 2016

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Seasonal Depression: Beating the Winter Blues
Photo Courtesy of: Jarylle Montevirgen 

Improving Your Mood During the Colder Seasons

As it gets colder, the days get shorter, and the winter blues are among us.  Getting out of bed or going to the gym may require extra effort.  You find yourself eating potato chips and desserts more often than you used to.

You may be affected with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) if you feel less energetic and more irritated as the winter season approaches.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, SAD is “characterized by recurrent episodes of depression, usually in late fall and winter, alternating with periods of normal or high mood the rest of the year”.  Symptoms include:

  • feeling sad, anxious or empty
  • loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • increased appetite, especially carbohydrates
  • oversleeping

For those who experience SAD, the winter may seem to drag on forever.  Fortunately, SAD can be treated in a variety of ways.

UNH Health Services offers free light therapy to students, employees and their dependents.  Light therapy involves using a light box that exposes you to artificial sunlight usually for about 20-30 minutes and works best when done in the morning.  Improvement from the treatment is felt after a few days or a few weeks depending on the individual.  The effects of light therapy can be improved if you eat healthy, walk outside, do aerobic exercise under bright lights and use dimmer lights late in the evening.

If light therapy does not work for you, counseling is another approach.  UNH offers counseling to help shape thoughts into less negative, more positive ones and to encourage activities pleasurable to the individual.  Antidepressants may also be recommended by your doctor if you choose not to use light or talk therapy.

Light therapy, counseling or antidepressants are a few ways to improve your negative feelings during the winter season.  Talk to a Health Services clinician or counselor to help find the best method for you.

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