Home World Mental Health Day: Make plans now to address seasonal affective disorder, or SAD
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World Mental Health Day: Make plans now to address seasonal affective disorder, or SAD

Crystal Graham
woman opening blinds in home
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With fall’s arrival, the days get shorter and it gets dark outside much earlier. Seasonal affective disorder or the winter blues, left untreated, can mean you are likely to suffer during dark days unnecessarily.

“For many people, fall is when the problems being because of the rapid loss of natural light,” said Dr. Norman Rosenthal, a Georgetown University clinical psychiatrist and researcher.

“Right now many people who are vulnerable to seasonal depression are experiencing more fatigue and having a hard time getting out of bed and getting things done, without realizing that the loss of daylight is driving their loss of energy,” said Rosenthal, the author of Defeating SAD: A Guide to Health and Happiness Through All Seasons. “It’s important to catch these symptoms early.”

Rosenthal, who first described SAD at the National Institute of Mental Health 40 years ago, reveals new developments in the detection and treatment of SAD, and the importance of recognizing the early onset of symptoms in his book.

Rosenthal says that people shouldn’t wait to deal with SAD until December or January, the time is now.

“Now that fall is here, it is timely to prepare for SAD,” he said.

Treatment for SAD may include light therapy, psychotherapy and medications. Certain herbal remedies, supplements or mind-body techniques may also help relieve symptoms that cause depression.

There are recommendations for self care that may help with treatment.

Mayo Clinic: Self-care tips for SAD

  • Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
  • Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
  • Normalize sleep patterns. Schedule reliable times to wake up and go to bed each day. Especially for fall-winter-onset, reduce or eliminate napping and oversleeping.

For more information on SAD, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website.

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.