The crisp breeze in the air and changing leaves is a sign that fall is finally here. Which for some of us can mean over-sized sweaters and pumpkin flavored everything. However, for others with a stronger sensitivity to the shortened amount of daylight and general seasonal shift can bring on a state of sadness that can affect everyday functioning. This is often accompanied by a desire to sleep all the time and still feel tired, gaining weight, difficulty concentrating, or a loss of interest in activities that were once seen as pleasurable. These symptoms are an indication of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is often referred to as SAD. Most commonly, symptoms of SAD occur in the late fall and early winter and could persist all the way through summer. This is not an uncommon disorder as millions are affected by it every year.
A good indicator of whether or not you are likely to be affected with SAD is if you have had it in previous years and if you have a close relative that is affected by it. The upside to having a seasonal condition is that you can see it coming and takes steps to prevent it from taking over your life once the day light hours start to shrink. Knowing what your triggers are is a crucially important first step for working with managing any disorder or set of undesirable behaviors.
A good preventative measure to take would be psychotherapy. Working with a professional before you start to suffer from the symptoms will help you have more control as they come on and have a game plan for what to do on days that may be especially hard. Another important and often talked about therapy is light therapy. This involves sitting in front of a special soft light that helps give your body something close to the natural sunlight that is missing during this time of year. Light therapy can often be fairly in-expensive and in addition to psychotherapy can be a great way to be prepared for that seasonal shift in affect. Living in the Chicagoland area, we know that our winters are pretty brutal and we have to work hard every year to get through them. Taking care of your mental health during this time of year is just as important as all the hours you’ll spend shoveling out your car.