The winter months mean reduced sunlight and sometimes seasonal depression — or seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms include:
- Feelings of tiredness, irritability and anxiety
- Weight gain
- Increased sleep
- A change in appetite
- A loss of interest in usual activities
Raymond Hoffman, MD, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and medical director of AAMC’s Division of Mental Health and Substance Use, recommends steps to reduce or eliminate symptoms:
Use light therapy. Sit in front of a special fluorescent lamp for 30 to 90 minutes a day.
Buy a dawn simulator. Similar to an alarm clock, this device wakes you up with gradually increasing light instead of music or beeping.
Exercise outdoors. If it’s too cold or snowy to go outside, exercise near the window at the gym.
Take a vitamin D supplement. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to seasonal depression.
Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Keep a consistent sleep and wake routine.
Talk to your doctor. If these steps don’t help, talk to your doctor to see if you may benefit from antidepressants.
“SAD can determine whether we enjoy or simply endure the winter season,” Dr. Hoffman says. “If you think you’re experiencing SAD, your doctor can help.”