The short, cold days of winter can start to take a toll on our mood. For some, these winter months can actually affect their health.
It’s nice to sit in the sun on a cold winter’s day. Tricia Kelly says, “This natural light really helps, even when it’s cold outside.”
For Kelly, the natural light is important for her health. She says, “It’s still up and down, better, but I still struggle.”
Several years ago, Kelly noticed she lost interest in daily activities, craved carbs and didn’t want to get out of bed during the winter months. She says, “It was becoming too much on a daily basis for me to enjoy my normal daily life.”
She started coming to Compass Clinical Associates in Urbandale and was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Licensed Psychologist Ann Latham says, “It’s a type of depression that kicks in when the days get shorter and we have less sunlight available.”
Latham says many of us get a bit of the winter blues, but about five percent of the population suffers from SAD. She says, “If it’s in the category where you feel like you can’t do what you usually do, and you see it occurring several days or even a couple weeks. And, you’re just not feeling yourself.”
Eating right, working out, and getting enough sleep can lessen symptoms. Getting outside can also help. Latham says, “If you can just try to be closer to the window in your office or at home.”
Sitting by the window on sunny days can help, but some people may need even more than that. Latham says, “Light therapy has been shown to be quite effective for a lot of patients.”
Kelly started using light therapy this season. She got the box about a month ago and sits near it for about thirty minutes a day. Latham says, “For some people it kind of produces a chemical reaction. So they can kind of rejuvenate a little bit, and feel that sense of energy and minimize the depression they’ve had.”
Kelly says, “I’ve noticed a huge difference. I use it particularly in the evening, and it’s also helped with my sleep.”
Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms usually begin in September or October and end in April or May when the weather starts to warm. Talk to a mental health professional if it impacts your daily life. Dr. Latham says anti-depressants can also help.