Tag Archives: S.A.D.

1st Sign of Spring–Not the Robins!

by Kassandra Lamb

There is one HUGE reason why I live in Florida – the winters are mild and very short. Just the other day I experienced the first sign of spring.

For me, it’s not the azaleas starting to bloom–although they do so in Florida at the first hint of warmer days. Nor is it the increase in the song birds in my backyard.


The azaleas outside my study window

I know that spring has arrived when I wake up in a good mood, for the first time in weeks!

I liken it to having a mild case of the flu, one where you can stay functional with just a little bit of effort. So you don’t quite realize just how sick you were until you start to feel better.

That’s me in the spring. I don’t realize just how depressed I’ve been all winter until the depression lifts in the spring, and suddenly that crabby mood that I’ve been blaming on other things for the last couple of months is gone. I’m alive again, have energy to do things, and feel pleasure in my accomplishments.

I, like many other people, suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, whose acronym, ironically, is S.A.D. I’ve posted about this disorder before, about its cause (less sunlight amping up the production of a hormone called melatonin) and its treatment (light boxes).

But I wanted to comment on it again, as a reminder to folks like myself who have milder cases, especially those up north who are still knee-deep (some of them literally) in winter.

Our depression isn’t always obvious. It takes the form of irritability and a general feeling of malaise. We sleep more, have less energy and eat more. But we won’t necessarily realize what is going on. It’s too subtle, starting gradually in the fall as the daylight hours shorten.

The risk is that we will blame the down feelings on other things. As human beings, we have a natural tendency to look for explanations for our emotions. This can lead us astray in life when the emotions are more motivated by biological changes than life circumstances.

penguins arguing

Crabby penguins arguing (photo by Brocken-Inaglory CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

We may pick fights with our friends or family members or decide we can’t stand our house and want to move.

You know how they say one shouldn’t make big decisions right after a major loss… well, the same applies to S.A.D. sufferers in the winter!

It helps some though, to know what is going on. If you keep reminding yourself that this is not about your life, it’s about the time of year, then you can get through ’til spring a bit easier, and with a lot less wear and tear on your relationships.

And if you’re one of those weird people who likes cold weather, please understand that our dislike of it is not just a preference. It’s a craving for the return of joy and energy!

How about you? Do you hate winter, or like it? Do you think you might have a touch of S.A.D. or do you know someone who does?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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Do You get S.A.D. in the Winter?

I hate talking about depression because, well, it’s depressing. But if you’re one of those folks who gets S.A.D. in the winter, or you know someone who does, you may appreciate this post.

I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder, i.e., folks who start getting more and more fatigued and listless for no apparent reason as the days get shorter and grayer.

If you’ve been told that you must have some deep-seated negative association with winter, forget that BS. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a biologically-based depression. It’s caused by a malfunction in a natural phenomenon that occurs in all of us. This natural phenomenon developed through evolution.

In cave-person times (tough to be politically correct when talking about that era), those folks whose metabolisms slowed down in the winter, so they burned fewer calories, were much more likely to survive until spring.They dragged their butts through the winters. But when spring came, they’d come bouncing out of their caves, full of renewed energy now that the sun was bright. Much to the annoyance of their skeletal cave-mates who just barely made it through the first hunt.

photo by Lynn Kelley Author (from WANA Commons, share-alike license) Doing her spring happy dance.

I have a mild case of S.A.D. When I lived in Maryland, I would get increasingly grumpy in the fall. I often wouldn’t realize just how depressed I became during the winter months, until spring came along and I started feeling sooo much better.

It was kind of like a low-grade, chronic case of the flu–one where you don’t realize just how sick you’ve been until you start to get better.

In the winter time, all of us (thanks to that evolutionary tendency inherited from our more wintertime-lethargic, springtime-energetic cave ancestors) have an increase in the release of the hormone, melatonin, from the pineal gland. This hormone regulates our sleep cycles and promotes deep sleep.This increased melatonin release makes us all a little bit less energetic in the winter.

For those with S.A.D., the melatonin levels increase too much, causing more severe fatigue and lethargy. S.A.D. can range from mild cases like mine to people who become severely depressed in the winter.

What can you do about it:

1.  The first thing to do (and this may be enough if you have a very mild case) is go outside as much as possible in the winter, especially on sunny days. Because it is not the cold that triggers S.A.D., it’s the lack of daylight. In my thirties, I started horseback-riding regularly year-round. My S.A.D. got a lot better. It went from a moderate to a mild case.

2.  Light therapy. There are light boxes, and other devices, that simulate sunlight. These are specifically designed to treat S.A.D., although they serve other purposes as well. More on light therapy below.

3.  Move to a southern clime, (or at least winter there, if you’re retired or filthy rich). My S.A.D. is one of the reasons–a major one, in fact–for our move to Florida when my husband and I retired.

More about light therapy boxes:

If you think you have S.A.D. these are a worthwhile purchase. They can change your life. But do your research first to find the best device for your needs. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic about how to choose a light box. They range from $100 to $400, and unfortunately many insurance policies will not pay for them. (But they will pay for antidepressants that cost that much or more per month or for hospitalization when you’re suicidal. Go figure!)

Light therapy lamp (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

A light therapy box.

Even if you have to pay out of pocket, it’s worth it to get your winters back! Someone asked me, shortly before our move south, why I was moving to Florida. I said, “Because I’m tired of wishing away almost half of my life.” I would start dreading winter by mid-October and wouldn’t really come out of it until some time in April. At that time, light boxes were much more expensive, but looking back, I should have bought one anyway.

Life is too short to spend anymore of it than necessary depressed!

Here are more tips on how to use light therapy effectively from PsychEducation.org.

Does this resonate with you? Do you think you, or someone you know, may have S.A.D.?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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