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Seasonal funk: Help to get your happy back.

COVID-19 is tough on all of us. But we all have reasons to  hope.

As we feel hope for a better new year, many people worry about the approach of winter because of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s real. If you feel depressed as the days get shorter, do not dismiss your feelings. You are not alone. Help is available.

Feeling better could be as easy as turning on a lamp

More than a frown.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the following signs and symptoms of SAD.

  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day.
  • Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed.
  • Low energy.
  • Problems with sleeping.
  • Changes in your appetite or weight.
  • Sluggishness or agitation.
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

SAD can lead to other problems, including:

  • Problems or struggles with work or school.
  • Substance misuse.
  • Other disorders, such as anxiety or eating disorders.
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior.

Causes and treatment for SAD.

We don’t know what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder. Possibilities include:

  • A change in circadian rhythms. A drop in sunlight during winter could contribute. The change could disrupt your internal clock, leading to feelings of depression.
  • Decreased serotonin. Less sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, which affects mood.
  • Melatonin level changes. The change in season can affect the body’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is important in establishing sleep patterns and mood.

Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications, and psychotherapy. Always speak with a health professional before starting any medications or therapies.

A person fishes from a canoe in a lake surrounded by fog.

The helpers want to help you.

Talk with your doctor about health options available to you. A care provider can help find the best remedy for you. It could be more exercise or a change in diet. It could be a lamp to simulate sunlight. Or it could be medication. The best option for you is the one that works. Your medical provider can help you find it.

Many providers and groups now offer remote access to care. Substance support organizations, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, often conduct meetings online, gathering securely for private discussions. Advisors are meeting with people using apps like Zoom to talk using technology.

We still don’t know a lot about COVID-19. Many of us worry about what is going to happen in the future. It’s natural. Helping others is natural too. It’s OK to reach out and talk with someone about your struggles. Please, take the first step and contact any of the following services:

  • Call the Pierce County Crisis Line available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (800) 576-7764.  
  • Crisis Text Line: Send a text to 741741 (mobile fees waived).  
  • Washington Listens support line (833) 681-0211, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday–Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekends. TTY and language access services are available.  
  • Other mental health resources, call 211.  
  • LGBTQ Trevor Project Support Center: (866) 488-7386.  

Find additional resources in this previous Behavioral Health blog.

For more information on good emotional health, visit tpchd.org or tpchd.org/behavioralhealth