By Diane Lang
It’s almost that time of year again - cold weather, snow, ice, clouds and days with less sunlight. For parents, winter is a tough time - finding activities that are always inside, worrying about snow days and delays and making sure kids get plenty of physical exercise even though the weather is cold and the days are shorter. On top of that some parents (and non parents) have to deal with a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This type of depression usually happens in the winter months due to the weather and shorter periods of daylight. Being that this type of depression is seasonal, the symptoms usually come back the same time every year and go away around the same time.
The cause of Seasonal Affective Disorder is still unknown, but we know environmental factors play a role. We also know that SAD can run in the family - genetics plays a role. SAD is more common in women and we usually see symptoms starting in young adulthood.
There are treatment options for SAD so you can stay happy during the longer, darker and colder winter days. Here are some tips to help prevent the winter blues:
• Get as much light as you can even when you’re indoors. Open tahoe shade, roll up the curtains, move your desk near the windows, etc.
• Spend time outdoors during the daylight hours. The weather is cold and snowy but we do know that being outside in the winter months is beneficial. Go outside for quick walks and sit in the sun to help lift your spirits. After a few days of spending some time outdoors, you will start feeling a little better.
• Add exercise into your daily routine - exercise, even just walking, produces endorphins and reduces stress hormones at the same time so you get a boost of happiness.
• Make sure to add some fun into your life. Even though the weather keeps us homebound, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! Instead of feeling trapped inside, find ways to engage in things you love.
• Be social. Adding more social activities where you will be surrounded with family and friends can give the extra support you need.
• Take a vacation. Some feel a sense of isolation and loneliness in the winter months, if this is the case setting up vacation time in warm, sunny spots can help and give you something to look forward to.
• Try "Light Therapy." We know that increased sunlight helps improve the symptoms of SAD. There are certain lights you can buy called "Light Therapy Box" which mimics outside light and helps you lift your mood and spirits.