T Talks // SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder]

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  Most people with SAD have symptoms starting in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

Source:  Mayo Clinic

I’ve meant to put up this post for quite some time but never seemed to get around to it….but I’ve always been of the mindset that my trials are meant to be a testimony.  So hopefully sharing my experience will help others of you that may also be battling with this as well.

Ever since my first year of medical school I’ve battle with the “winter blues”.  I first noticed it during the beginning of my second semester when things seemed to be particularly overwhelming with Neurophysiology (the horror!) and I was just in the DEEPEST funk ever in life.  Everything around me just seemed so bleek and cloudy and….I went through probably the deepest depression I’ve ever been in.  I couldn’t eat…I couldn’t sleep…I felt like I was going to die and possibly fail out of med school (which for me was pretty much synonymous with dying).  But then the semester ended, spring and summer came around and life was grand once again.  If only the story would have ended there….

Pretty much every single fall and winter since then has been tough.  Even as recently as last year, I would consider my second deepest period of being down and out.  And to be honest, it often correlates not just with the changes in season but also life changes and circumstances that seem to beat me up a bit as well.  But the lingering cold and darkness definitely do nothing to help things.

Believe it or not, SAD is a pretty common issue affecting mainly individual 18 to 30 years of age, with 3 out of 4 SAD sufferers being women.  It is thought to be caused by the decrease in sunlight in winter months which can affect your circadian rhythm or biological internal clock, and two chemicals in your brain: serotonin (levels play a role in your mood) and melatonin (plays a role in your sleeping pattern and mood).

Common symptoms include:
*Mood changes
*Sleep problems
*Fatigue & low energy
*Changes in appetite (overeating or undereating) & weight
*Loss of sexual interest or desire for physical contact
*Thoughts of suicide
*Losing interest in things once enjoyed

That last symptom is one of the reasons you guys often see a lull in my blog posts during the winter months, especially in the last two years.

But there are ways to combat SAD…other than just schlepping through until the sun comes out again.  Here are a few pro tips:

1. Light Therapy – This can be intense clinical light therapy or as simple as making your environment sunnier and brighter.
2. Talk Therapy – Psychotherapy can help identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors, help you learn healthy ways to cope, and give you tools to help manage stress
3.  Make lifestyle changes – Exercise regularly, take time to meditate and pray, eat well, and make a conscious effort to look great so you can feel just as wonderful.

I’m definitely making a conscious effort to be more proactive in fighting my battle against SAD, and I’ll be sharing how I’ll do that hopefully in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder and ways to conquer it, check out the links below:

Mayo Clinic

Mental Health America

Love and God Bless,

– T

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