Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD can be bad, but it does not have to be

Published by Katie Gray on

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Seasonal Affective Disorder: SAD can be bad, but it does not have to be

Around this time of year, it gets hard for some Americans to be interested in regular activities, and others have difficulty waking up, while some people either stop eating or eat more. This is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it affects about 10 million Americans today, according to the Mayo Clinic says.

SAD usually starts and ends the same time every year for individuals and it is mostly during the fall through winter months but can affect some people during spring or summer. It usually happens because people are not getting enough sunlight, with decreased serotonin and melatonin that affects the mood and appetite. The complications that can come with SAD look like being withdrawn from others, problems with school or work, eating disorders, and maybe suicidal thoughts or behavior. 

Hanna Culbertson, the Umpqua Community College life coach, recommends that someone who is experiencing the above symptoms should talk to a primary care physician or a therapist to get an accurate diagnosis to see if medicine can work.

If medicine is not an option, a therapist can help talk with you. Aroma therapy can help, that means using essential oils to make something smell good and calming, Culbertson says, “Find something that is going to be soothing as possible, decorate it so it feels hopeful.” 

During the winter months, The Mayo Clinic advises that people susceptible to SAD intentionally connect with friends and people, so they feel less isolated, sleep well, eat well, and exercise. Culbertson also says, “When depressed, we forget how to take care of ourselves so make sure to try and go out of your way to try to take care of you.”

Depression or SAD is usually on a cycle, so people who know their tendency are advised to come up with a self-care plan when they are not depressed. “Make sure to write down signs/ symptoms and certain things that are helpful to make you feel better instead of waiting until you can’t take care of yourself,” says Culbertson.

Some different methods of trying to avoid SADness are light therapy, aroma therapy, making connections, and trying to be proactive. Culbertson provided a self-care assessment to allow people to do a self-check in, and also a link to a self-care plan to help people who have SAD. 

Self-Care Assessment: Get help if feeling this way:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide

Hanna Culbertson is at Umpqua Community College to talk to, and students can contact her through the UCC website, or there is also The National Suicidal Hotline.

Hanna Culbertson MSW, CSWAUCC Life Coach
Office: (541) 440-7896
Pronouns: she, her, hers

Suicide intervention resources:
Compass Behavioral Health 24/7: 800-866-9780
National Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255

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