“Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo. Here comes the sun, and I say it’s alright. Little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here.” Oh, the Beatles, they sure knew what they were singing about, didn’t they? With daylight savings time past us and the feeling as though the sweet warm embrace of the sun is long gone (for the time being), it sure can make us feel sad, right?
Actually, SAD is a very real thing. Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a type of depression that occurs during certain seasons of the year. It is hypothesized that people experience an increase in depressive symptoms due to being exposed to less sunlight. This can cause a chemical change in the brain that may lead to symptoms like feeling sad or having a depressed mood, a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite, changes in sleep, and a loss of energy.
Does this sound familiar? I know it sure does for myself. I love the sun. I love the warmth. I love all things summer. I personally have always struggled with SAD ever since I was a teenager. So, what does one do if they are struggling with SAD? The first step is to determine how much your symptoms may be interfering with your daily life. Second, try to add certain activities to help increase the chemicals in your brain that help you to feel good. This could include doing something you enjoy, going outside and standing in the sunlight, spending time with family and friends, and eating healthier foods while avoiding a lot of sugar.
If these two steps don’t seem to help with the severity of the symptoms of SAD, then it may be time to seek further help. This may include visiting your doctor about medication options, doing light therapy, and seeing a mental health therapist.
As a therapist, and a fellow individual who struggles with SAD from time to time, it is important to give yourself grace when it comes to these symptoms. SAD and depression symptoms in general can be very difficult to cope with. It is okay to seek help with the heaviness that SAD can leave you with. It is common for people in the northern states to experience SAD, so if you are reading this and feel like you can relate, know that you are not alone.
Another great reminder, depression symptoms and SAD can present very different from one person to the next. Even though your friend or family member may be struggling more with the fatigue and appetite changes, and your experience is more with the loss of interest in doing things you once enjoyed, that does not mean both cannot suffer from the symptoms of SAD.
In my own experience I become irritable easily, and struggle with fatigue. And honestly, I just get to the point where I miss the sun so much, I could cry. I’m sure many reading this can relate to feeling like you go to work in the dark, and you leave work in the dark, to go home and spend your evening in the dark.
Even though SAD can make us feel really, well, sad, there is hope in knowing that the sun will, and always does come back. So, remember, just like every winter before it, this too shall pass.
As the Beatles sang, “Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo. Here comes the sun. It’s alright”. The sun will always return. And it will be alright.
Jessie Szmanda, MA, LADC
Individual and Family Therapist
Lakes Center for Youth & Families