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Dark Days, Dark Mood
As summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter, things change. The summer colors fade. The temperature drops. Days get shorter, and darkness is more plentiful. These changes can affect people too. Some feel more sluggish. Others find it difficult to focus on their work. This seasonal change in mood and behavior is known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
This mood disorder is a type of depression that is related to seasonal variations of light. Symptoms of SAD include depression, fatigue or loss of energy, overeating, lack of sex drive, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating or processing information.
Researchers say that about 25% of people who live in northern states have the “winter blues.” This milder form of SAD can make a person feel less cheerful, creative, and energetic during the dark days of winter.
As the seasons change, there is a shift in our “biological clocks,” partly in response to the changes in sunlight patterns. Our inner clocks can fall out of step with our daily schedules. People with SAD have a difficult time adjusting to the shortage of sunlight in the winter months.
Melatonin is a sleep-related hormone that has been linked to SAD. This hormone is believed to cause symptoms of depression and is produced at increased levels in the dark. So, when the days are shorter and darker, the production of this hormone increases.
Young people and women are at the highest risk for SAD, but it can affect anyone. The main age of onset is between 18 and 30. It usually decreases around the age of 50.
How can people cope with the winter blues? Changing the environment can help. Remove the drapes and let the natural light shine in! Paint the walls a brighter color. Install brighter light bulbs.
Taking care of yourself can help too. Stay warm and healthy. Wrap up in a cozy blanket and enjoy a warm cup of cocoa. Eat good foods and get daily exercise! These coping tools will keep your mood up when the dark days try to pull it down.