SAD in winter? You’re not alone

SAD in winter? You’re not alone

Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in the cold months. The silver lining: going out in the sun helps

Despite the hot coffees, cosy clothes and festive air, the colder and darker days of winter can leave you feeling sad or irritated. However, you can take comfort in the fact that you have company.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a recurrent type of depression associated with the change in seasons. More than a crore cases are reported in India in a year.

The symptoms usually begin after the rainy season and peak during December-February but the condition improves during summer and spring.

This pattern is repeated for long years among some people and can seriously hamper their quality of life and mental well-being.

Women more at risk

Dr Shamili Kowshik, psychologist with BR Life SSNMC Hospital, says women are more prone to this depressive disorder as they suffer from hormonal changes.

‘Winter blues’ are not common among people who are physically and mentally active during winter and the rainy seasons, she says.

“A lack of sunlight during the winter and the rainy season causes a decrease in serotonin level, which in turn causes one to feel low. Also, a change in the season can disrupt the balance of melatonin in the body, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood,” she says.

Symptoms to watch out for

People affected by SAD feel depressed most of the time, almost every day, and may lose interest in all activities.

They also experience sleeplessness and a change in appetite pattern. Difficulty in concentration, low energy, and feelings of agitation are other symptoms to watch out for, says Dr Shamili.

“If this is not diagnosed and treated at the right time, a person suffering from SAD can even have suicidal tendencies. It can worsen with some triggers as well like the death of loved ones, relationship issues, financial difficulties and so on,” she adds.

A healthy diet and physical activity help, doctors say...

Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant psychiatrist, Sakra World Hospital, says the first step is to identify and accept the condition.

“This is caused by lack of exposure to sunlight. Bright sunlight helps in lifting the mood of a person so exposure to light or phototherapy (a treatment that requires exposing oneself to daylight or a special type of light) help. Scheduling physical activities and yoga in the morning will help,” he says.

How to beat it

Avoid staying alone during this time. Spend time with family and friends and talk to them regularly.

Follow a consistent diet pattern that includes fruits, nuts and protein-rich foods. Proper sleep of at least seven to eight hours is also necessary.

If symptoms are intense, medications might be necessary. Supplementing with vitamin D and omega fatty acids also help, according to psychiatrist Dr Naveen Jayaram.

How cows are happy in Russia, In other news...

We are not the only ones feeling blue. Cows in Russia are also susceptible to a bout of the winter blues. According to veterinary experts, the country’s 20 million-strong bovine population suffers from anxiety during the harsh winters there,

A farm in Moscow fitted its cows with virtual reality glasses that ‘simulate a summer field’ -- grass of the green, summer, meadowy sort. Apparently, it has resulted in making the cows calmer and improved their overall emotional mood.

The farm is monitoring whether it will also help improve the quantity and quality of the milk they give.

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