What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? (How to Slay SAD!)

Winter is approaching and with it comes SAD.

No, I don’t mean the emotion (although that’s part of it).

I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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Here’s what we’ll cover:

BUT, armed with the right weapons, we can ward off the winter monster, or even keep it in full hibernation.

From here, mental health wizard and resident NF Family Rebel Correspondent, Dan Schmidt, will take it away:

As Coach Jim mentions in the video above, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder that, spoiler alert, has a seasonal pattern. 

(Plus, it’s a really clever acronym.)

It’s also known as:

SAD can be a cruel, powerful, and damaging arctic foe.

But armed with the right weapons, we can ward off the winter monster, or even keep it in full hibernation.

Most of us feel a little glum in winter…it’s natural to feel a little down.

Cold mornings, less time outside, and often it’s not as easy to get out and do our favorite things:

So for a lot of us, winter just sucks a little. 

We’ve known something was up since the 6th century, but SAD remained a mythical creature until the 1980s in the West when it became officially recognized as a mood disorder. While we’re still not 100% sure of how it works; it’s pretty clear to see that SAD especially thrives in cooler, darker climates.

For example, studies show[1] SAD’s prevalence in the U.S. ranges from around 1% in Florida to 9% in Alaska. Looking around the world, in Oslo, Norway, around 14% of the population will be impacted by SAD,[2] while us lucky buggers Down Under are barely impacted at all, with estimates that only around 1 in 300 Aussies (0.33%)[3] will experience SAD during the “winter.”

Yes, SAD can occur for some people during summer and other seasons, but this is particularly rare compared to winter prevalence.

Common SAD symptoms include:

“But how do I know the difference between general winter glumness, or if I’m being mauled by the SAD beast like Leo in the Revenant?”

Ask yourself these questions:

If so, then it could be time to have a chat with a professional and perhaps seek treatment. Once again, SAD is just as real and can be just as devastating as Major Depressive Disorder; the only difference is the yearly regular onset.

This bitter beast can take over someone’s entire well-being, and if left untreated, the consequences can be devastating.

So let’s learn how we can slay the SAD, or even better, keep it in hibernation this year, so we nerds can continue to conquer all year round.

As with any injury or illness boss battle, you need to use the right medicine weapon to save the day. And there are many weapons you can equip yourself with to slay SAD.

Here is how to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder: 

Light helps the body produce serotonin (hormone that affects mood) and reduces the production of melatonin (hormone that makes you sleepy).[4]

Starting with natural light is best, even though it’s not always easy. If the sun happens to be peeking out from the clouds, try and get outside for a nice walk. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help, particularly in the morning. Just make sure you bundle up properly. The Norwegians have a saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing!”

Also, making your work and home environments as light and airy as possible and sitting near windows can help too. 

Be forewarned that Light Therapy is not appropriate for everyone, including people with bipolar disorder – talk to a professional if this is a route you want to take.

Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms.

So anything we can do to eat healthy this time of year may certainly help.

The research is a little mixed when it comes to Vitamin D’s effectiveness in battling SAD,[11] but some studies[12] do show an improvement to everyone’s depression scale scores (those with or without SAD). Overall, if you aren’t getting enough sunlight in the winter, consider picking up some Vitamin D!

Recommendations differ for the amount of Vitamin D needed – or if you even need it – so further blood work and a talk with your doctor is a good choice here.

Meditation has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression.[13] Now, you don’t have to shed all your worldly possessions and go live in the mountains:

If you want, Nerd Fitness Journey has a meditation adventure to help you build up the habit.

It’s free to try, right here:

Going back to foreign sayings – there’s a Danish concept of “hygge.”

While there’s no direct English translation, it essentially means coziness and comfort

Things like:

So instead of lamenting the change of seasons – EMBRACE these other experiences that we get to enjoy.

Talk Therapy (Psychotherapy) and cognitive behavioral therapy sound scary but really aren’t.

Psychotherapy focuses on helping you to build skills to deal with the stresses in your life, along with identifying and changing negative thinking patterns.

Therapies such as these assist with relearning some of the patterns and thoughts in your life that aren’t doing you any good.

It can feel daunting and really weird ‘opening up’ to a stranger at first.

But having a coach to talk through your negative thoughts and feelings, someone who can teach you to manage those better, is generally quite effective.

Most people will notice an improvement in as little as two weeks. Really, the “weird” stigma is usually the biggest barrier to even doing the thing in the first place!

Finally, some people with SAD benefit from antidepressant treatment, especially if symptoms are severe. We’re not here to offer any medical advice, so please see your doctor if you think medication may assist you.

It’s normal to have some days when you feel down, and the holiday season can be especially hard for some.

Above all, take care of yourself this winter: 

And if someone reaches out to you, rememberWe are Rebels, we fight conventional wisdom and smash stigmas. Never leave a fellow nerd behind.

If you feel the bitter, arctic beast starting to rise from its summer slumber, remember that you are not alone, and there are ways to slay the frosty fiend. You are strong enough to beat this, and the entire Rebellion has your back.

Want a little more from us?

If you want to continue your journey with Nerd Fitness, we have three great ways for you to do so:

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you. Just click on the button below for more details:

#2) If you want an exact roadmap for getting fit, check out NF Journey. Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Plus, we have Missions specifically designed to help you stay active, no matter what the weather is like outside.

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!

Alright, that does it for me. Rebels, take care of yourself and each other.

Do you have your own secret weapon to slay the SAD? We’d love to hear from all you Rebels about how you keep your mind healthy during winter; the more ideas we all have, the better! Let us know in the comments!

– Dan

PS – If you, or someone you know, would like further support, here are some excellent links and services that will get you started in the right direction:

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Photo source: lilu330 © 123RF.com

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