Seasonal Affective Disorder and the impact it has on overall mental health has recently been a focus of popular attention. While technically Seasonal Affective Disorder is a specific type of depression, it is important to note that in reality the change of seasons can affect us in many ways; for example, with feelings of sadness, lethargy, anxiety, or ambivalence. Seasonal Affective Disorder often has a cyclical pattern and will return during the changes within the seasons or at particular times of year which is why it is important to address these particular issues. By addressing this vulnerability and being proactive during these changes, it is likely that the symptoms can be managed more effectively.
So, when can Seasonal Affective Disorder hit? Many describe symptoms of depression that begin or are exacerbated during the winter months when there is less sunlight and less opportunity to be active outdoors. While this may be linked to actual seasonal changes, it is important to reflect and see if there are other changes that may be affecting your mood. One example may be anniversaries of significant events that may trigger feelings of sadness, regret, loss, or remorse. In much the same way the actual seasons changing may trigger strong feelings, so too can feelings related to past events. By being more mindful of when feelings shift or when depressive symptoms develop, it can help to establish a pattern and allow you to gain greater awareness of how certain times in the year may be more difficult. You are then better able to gain proactive support and decrease the possibility of negative effects due to these feelings.
What should you do about Seasonal Affective Disorder? Because there are no formalized symptoms of how seasonal changes affect individuals, the recommendations vary. Overall, it is important to be checking in with yourself about how you are feeling and if negative feelings start to feel overwhelming or unmanageable, it may be time to consult with a therapist. By gaining greater understanding of the triggers of these feelings, be it weather, season, or past events, you will then have a greater understanding of how to cope with these feelings and gain support from others during this time.
Written by Jackie Ghyczy, M.A.