As we approach the holidays, the weather turns colder, and the skies become greyer. For some, this season is synonymous with pumpkin spice lattes and ugly sweaters. However, these aren’t the only traditions some of us have grown accustomed to.
While laypeople commonly refer to it as Seasonal Affect Disorder, mental health professionals specifically recognize it as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
During the fall and winter months, many of us can feel just plain S.A.D, an issue so impactful that it has been given a name to match its effects.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)?
Hopkinsmedicine.org defines Seasonal Affective Disorder, (S.A.D), as, a form of depression that typically occurs at certain times of the year. S.A.D can occur during any season but mostly in the fall and winter.
There is no proven reason for this feeling. Experts feel that shorter days and lingering darkness change brain chemistry. The result is feelings of depression.
How do I know if I’m feeling S.A.D?
If you think you may be S.A.D., talking with your mental health professional is the best way to find out for sure. Consider making an appointment with your therapist if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Decreased energy
- Suicidal thoughts
Is it more common to be S.A.D during the holidays?
While it’s not a fact, there is a high possibility. Studies show that 6% of the population experiences Seasonal Affect Disorder. Another study done by the American Psychological Association found that 38% of people experienced higher stress levels over the holidays.
Interestingly, people who don’t usually feel S.A.D. are more likely to experience it during the winter. To make matters worse, holiday stress can increase feelings of depression.
Common triggers of depression during the holiday season can include:
- Travel stress
- Financial stress
- Heightened expectations
- Family drama
- Separation from loved ones
Am I S.A.D if I’m down during the holidays?
It’s important not to immediately diagnose yourself with Seasonal Affective Disorder just because you’re feeling tired or anti-social. The holidays bring up a wide variety of traumas and triggers for people. You need to understand why you may feel the way you’re feeling. It’s also necessary to remind yourself that your feelings are valid.
If you think you may be experiencing S.A.D during the holiday season, make an appointment with a licensed Psychiatrist to find out for sure.
How can I prevent S.A.D feelings during the holidays?
If you think you could fall into depressive feelings this year, here are some steps you can take to keep them at bay.
- Socialize – Don’t stay cooped up inside when life is happening outdoors. If your environment allows you to, go out and do fun winter activities like ice skating or visit friends for movie nights and warm drinks.
- Social detoxing – If holiday fun and cheer are the last things you want to see when you’re trying to unwind on social media, then consider taking a break from your phone and computer. Try reading, soaking in a hot bath, or engaging in other self-care rituals to help you relax instead.
- Set firm boundaries –Holidays with loved ones can be fun and traumatic. Avoid potential triggers by staying committed to your boundaries and resisting the urge to people-please.
- Attend regular therapy – Don’t wait to talk to a professional. Visiting a therapist regularly can help to identify depression symptoms right as they begin.
How can I help keep my loved ones from feeling S.A.D?
There’s a popular saying, “Check on your strong friends”. That’s absolutely right. We have no idea what people are going through, especially when the holidays roll around. Let your friends and family know you care by:
- Checking on them – Call or text your loved ones to let them know you care. Go the extra mile and ask about what’s going on in their lives. Listen for understanding– not for your turn to respond.
- Planning a visit – If the commute is reasonable (or a plane ticket is affordable), visit people you care about. Regular meetups can help strengthen your bond and remind them of your love.
- Encouraging exercise – Staying active is another great way to keep endorphins high. Take a hot yoga class together or get moving together on a video chatting platform. This can help keep you connected while staying mentally and physically healthy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) is nothing to sweep under the tree. It may only be periodic, but it can still feel debilitating. Concerned about your mental health going into this holiday season? Don’t wait until you show signs of depression to speak to a professional. Many websites and apps offer mental health services for affordable prices.
Also, try opening up to someone you trust, sometimes advice from a good friend or family member can help to lift your spirits. Do you have other tips to combat S.A.D that weren’t covered in this blog? Email us today to share your thoughts and subscribe for more content to help get you through today and every day.