The season for Seasonal Affective Disorder

A doctor offers advice for easing the effects
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 5:00 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The fresh layer of snow and cold may be exciting to some! But for others, it can sometimes lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD.

It’s more common than you think. Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, a distinguished psychologist with U.W. Health, says 4 to 6% of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, while about 10 to 20% experience a lesser form called the “winter blues.”

“With Daylight Saving Time having just ended and the colder weather occurring and the pandemic still bringing clusters of stress for people of all ages, accumulative effect can really be a trigger for lower mood,” Mirgain said.

Some signs of SAD include fatigue, sleep issues, loss of appetite and concentration, feelings of helplessness, and not finding joy in things you typically would.

But you don’t have to suffer. There are some tricks that can help, such as getting more sunlight whenever you can.

Mirgain says light therapy for about 20 to 30 minutes a day can be beneficial. Also, getting enough rest, eating foods rich in vitamin D, and exercise.

“We were made to move and often. That’s the first thing to go when it gets cold outside, so maybe pick up a winter sport like hiking or snowshoeing or skiing,” Mirgain recommended.

Natalie Bomstad, executive director of Wello, suggested, “Snowshoe hikes, when there’s opportunities to go skate for free in our city parks or opportunities for Christkindlmarkts that are coming up and events our districts put on,”

Wello, a local non-profit, focuses on connecting people and places to improve overall well-being. They’ve started what they call “Wintermission.”

“I think of my daughter when I think of Wintermission. It snowed yesterday and she was excited, and it’s all about how do we embrace this culture and environment that we live in,” Bomstad said.

She said it doesn’t have to come with a price.

“It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get involved. We have a lot of really wonderful places that are free for people to go to and experience. One of those is the Fox River trail, where we are right now, and because of a collaborative agreement, the trail is plowed so it remains accessible for people,” Bomstad said.

Mirgain says many of these tips can help, but if they don’t, see your doctor for more support.

4 to 6% of Americans suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder but 10 to 20% experience the "winter blues"