Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is when you experience symptoms of depression as the seasons change. Most often, these feelings are tied to the fall and winter. But you can take charge to feel better during these months.
Symptoms of winter-onset SAD include oversleeping, exhaustion, low energy, gaining weight, and appetite changes, like craving carbs and heavy foods.
Symptoms of summer-onset SAD include trouble sleeping, agitation, anxiety, losing weight, and poor appetite.
While doctors aren’t certain of the cause of seasonal affective disorder, some factors that contribute to it include how your biological clock, serotonin levels (which affect mood), and melatonin levels (which affect sleep patterns) are affected by reduced sunlight.
SAD is more common for those with depression, bipolar disorder, a family history of these conditions, and those living far from the equator with short days in the winter.
Seasonal affective disorder can cause people to withdraw from their social circles, affect their performance in school or work, increase the risk of substance abuse, worsen other mental health issues (like anxiety), and in extreme cases, lead to suicidal thoughts and behavior.
Treatment for this disorder can include light therapy, antidepressants, therapy, and relaxation techniques like tai chi, yoga, meditation, or art therapy. Talk to your doctor to find the right fit for you.
It’s Self-Care Month, and if you’re not sure why self-care matters, these TED talks can explain why your emotional and physical health should be a priority.
If you’ve never focused on self-care before, these 10 habits are a great way to get started.
Create a relaxing routine for self-care. Whether it’s herbal tea and reading a book before bed or coffee and the newspaper in the morning, taking structured time for yourself is a great way to wind down and prepare you for the next thing.
Take a break from technology. Whether it’s picking up a book, heading outdoors, or just spending time with friends or family, turning off the news and social media can help you refocus on yourself.
If you need to be more mindful or focus on relaxation, even if it’s only for 5 minutes, find a meditation app that can help guide you.
Learn something new. Cooking or baking new recipes, knitting, or playing an instrument requires you to focus but can also give you time to yourself.
Mixing up your day-to-day routine, like taking a different route to work, can help you get out of a rut, and these little changes can help you create new neural pathways to keep the brain healthy and build new habits.
Relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When I think of relaxation, I imagine myself having no to-do list, sitting back, and watching my son play. Now that I’m raising a family, I understand the importance of taking time to just relax.
On the weekends, I tend to clean my house top to bottom. I get so focused on these tasks that by the time I’m done with my chores, I realize it’s already 5 o’clock on Saturday evening. I get so upset with myself because I spent a whole day cleaning instead of taking a stroll in the park, going on a hike with my family, or just sitting in the backyard and enjoying the nice summer weather.
Then, I rush to get myself together to go do something “fun” before night falls. This defeats the whole purpose of relaxing because I’m so tired by the end of the day, I don’t even get to enjoy the activities with my family.
I now more than ever see why it’s so important to take time to relax. Time and time again, I hear about all of the benefits of relaxation, like lowering blood pressure, increasing blood flow to major muscles, improving sleep quality, and much more. I need to be the best version of me so I can be around and have a good time with my family.
This summer, I am trying something new. I’m giving myself small tasks to do at home every day after work, so when the weekend comes around, my workload isn’t so big. I’m also giving myself a set time frame to clean each Saturday morning. When I’m all done, it’s usually time for my son to take a midday nap, which gives me some dedicated “me time.” When he wakes up, I’m relaxed and ready to have some family fun.
So far, I’m really enjoying my new approach to handling my time. Sometimes, relaxing is much harder than setting up a new plan. There are a lot of reasons you might need a new plan too, like a diagnosis that requires you to try a different approach.
When that happens, our case managers are here to help you make your new plan work in lots of way. They can provide motivation, tools, and lifestyle skills to help minimize your risk of complications and share resources that are available in your community.
So get started finding a plan that works for you, and don’t forget to take some time to relax this summer.
Jessica Arroyo, born and raised in Wenatchee Valley, is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and infant son.
The relentless pace of modern life makes it easy to forget how different things were in the past.
Last fall, my friends Bill and Sharon took a steamboat trip, and they described it as “incredibly relaxing.” Sounds like an interesting way to travel, and it piqued my curiosity about riverboats in general.
There are 2 main varieties of paddle steamers: a sternwheeler (one wheel at the back, naturally) and a side-wheeler (I’m sure you can guess where they are located). It seems their speed is dependent on a number of factors, including cargo on board and headwinds. An average speed seems to be around 15 mph, which was very fast when steamboats became popular.
Some steamboats were the height of luxurious travel at the time. Cut crystal lighting, lavish furniture, and carpeting were the most up-to-date available. Live entertainment and game playing were popular activities. Other steamboats were more pedestrian, combining passengers and cargo, both of varying degrees of quality. However, railroads eventually eclipsed the importance of riverboat travel.
Although popular media has sometimes romanticized riverboat travel, it occurs to me they didn’t have air conditioning. (I have been in St Louis during August.) I am also wondering what the bathrooms were like, in case someone wanted to grab a quick shower. The very real threats of fire and running aground were constant reminders that some of the dangers of a riverboat trip came from the ship itself, not just the other passengers. Hitting snags or sandbars and exploding boilers all presented very real threats to life and limb.
My friends said the food was good but definitely not low calorie. I asked them what they did between meals, and Sharron said they mostly loafed on the deck and watched the scenery go by. Occasionally, they enjoyed some live music or a dramatic reading. Card games were a popular choice among some of the passengers, while others napped. “We both noticed it was the most relaxed we’d been in a long time,” she said. “We highly recommend it.”
It seems ironic to me that a historic mode of travel formerly known for its speed now sets the pace for a leisurely excursion. Considering the cost of today’s riverboat tickets, it’s even more ironic how much people are willing to pay for a little relaxation.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.
Even with an occasional 60-degree day, February isn’t exactly my favorite month for getting active (or doing anything really, except maybe watching college basketball and catching up on TV shows). I prefer to spend my winter under a warm blanket with a giant sweatshirt and my bunny slippers, remote in hand, butt on couch.
As someone who thinks the first snow of the season is magical and who saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (chock-full of hope from crawl to credits) three times this winter, I know if I’m running a little low on hope and motivation, lots of others probably are, too. After the holiday goodies go stale, I’m kind of done with winter. The mere thought of being outside in the cold makes me cringe. (Once again, thank goodness for those rare warm February days.)
Despite the snow, ice, and occasional subzero wind chills (gross), you don’t have to hibernate for the whole season. A little rest mixed with a hobby here and there is a great recipe for a productive and satisfying winter, even if you’re like me and think stepping outside in the cold is pure torture.
In fact, relaxation is healthy, too. It not only helps refresh your mind, but it also helps lower your risk for certain diseases. Relaxation doesn’t mean lying in bed all day doing nothing. You can take some time to do something you love, catch up with a friend or family member on the phone (or in person if you’re ready to brave the cold), or try a new, relaxing hobby.
Winter is a gift-wrapped, guilt-free excuse handed to us each year (at least in the northern half of the United States), allowing us to put off our outdoor activities for about three months.
I need to cherish that gift, and here’s a short list of how I plan to do so with a mixture of stimulating and relaxing hobbies. You can customize the list and make the most of winter, too.
Nicole’s Ultimate Relaxation & At-Home Projects List
Make my dream a reality.
Although writing is literally my job, after years of writing about real-life events and health facts, I want to try my hand at fiction. I’ve dreamed of writing a novel since grade school, and it’s at the top of my bucket list (or sunshine list, as my friend aptly named it).
The verdict is still out on whether I’m any good, but this item is mostly about achieving a personal goal. Plus, writing is the perfect indoor activity for me (I can wear my bunny slippers AND make my dream come true).
Complete a major organization project.
Although it’s not quite as empowering as writing an entire novel, I would love to someday have every photo I’ve ever taken, or at least the good ones, organized both digitally and in print. (Not having printed photos makes me uneasy every time I watch a post-apocalyptic TV show or movie). Like my book, this one will take more than a season, but it’s another activity I can do inside.
I’m staying away from scrapbooking, though. I learned firsthand while creating a (very thorough) scrapbook of my senior year of high school that my perfectionism and scrapbooking don’t mix well when stress relief is my goal.
Take something old and make it new.
I spent a large chunk of last winter painting Mason jars to use as brightly colored vases in my apartment. I also started saving and painting olive, pickle, and pepper jars in the process, and suddenly, I had a winter hobby. I love olives, pickles, and peppers almost as much as candy, so my collection grew pretty quickly.
They were easy to paint (there are different techniques with varying degrees of difficulty) and reminded me of spring.
There are plenty of physical activities you can do without getting out in the nasty weather. Last winter, I started a step challenge. I got a LOT of steps, about 10,000 per day, sometimes closer to 20,000, mostly by walking around my apartment during commercial breaks, sporting events, and phone conversations. (Sorry, downstairs neighbors.)
I sometimes also do pushups, squats, crunches, and various other exercises while watching TV, and my all-time favorite exercise, dancing, is living room-friendly as well. Basically, as long as dancing and/or being able to watch TV is on the table, I’m a fan of exercise.
Channel my inner kid.
I’m somewhat of an expert at this one. For instance, I ate SpaghettiOs while writing this blog post.
Anyway, adult coloring books are a thing now. My co-workers and I have started having coloring nights after work. I use a kid coloring book, though. To me, the adult ones look too tough to be fun, and I’m a bigger fan of Disney characters than abstract designs anyway.
Spring sprang in my apartment about a week ago because, like I’ve mentioned again and again, I’m tired of the cold. Decorating helps me cut back on boredom and allows for some creativity. Once it’s done, it’s a daily reminder that spring isn’t too far away. I highly recommend this one.
Enjoy those rare warm days.
If it’s going to be 60 degrees outside (or even upper 50s), I intend to get out and enjoy the spring-like temperature. As much as my relaxation and indoor projects list motivates me, nothing is quite as motivating as being able to go outside on a sunny day in a spring jacket.
Disclaimer: While the items on this list can help you fight boredom, escape from stress, feel accomplished, and stimulate your mind, they’re not magic. Winter will still be winter.
When the relaxation and indoor hobbies aren’t masking the winter grind, just remember, jelly bean season is in full swing, and pitchers and catchers reported this week. Spring will come.