Winter blues

Depending on the eyes that behold it, a beautiful barn sitting beside the road in Mountain City in January may be a delight or bring a feeling of loneliness.   

When the frenzy of the holiday season ends and the festive decorations are all put away, there is always a sense of sadness. Still, when added to the frigid temperatures, gray days, and lack of daylight hours, it is no wonder that people get the ‘winter blues.’

The lack of sunlight can make your ‘get up and go’ disappear, and a feeling of lethargy can set in. According to Dr. Matthew Rudorfer, a mental health expert at the National Institutes of Health, “the Winter Blues are fairly common, are more mild than serious, and usually clears up on its own in a fairly short amount of time.” Dr. Rudorfer went on to say that “the Winter Blues are often linked to something specific, such as stressful holidays or reminders of absent loved ones.”

Unlike the winter blues, which start to improve as daylight hours begin to increase, SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a well-defined clinical diagnosis that can actually interfere with one’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic, include loss of energy, oversleeping, weight gain, changes in appetite, and a loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed.

Some symptoms of both the Winter Blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder are similar, or in some instances, identical, including their annual return each winter however, Seasonal Affective Disorder, according to the NIH, “can lead to a gloomy outlook and make people feel hopeless, worthless, and irritable.” Triggers for SAD include the shorter days and reduced sunlight that occur in the Fall and Winter months, which is why, according to Dr. Teodor Postolache of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, a few weeks of Light Therapy treatment -with the use of a lightbox, relieves the symptoms associated with SAD for over seventy percent of patients.

Whether just the Winter Blues or Season Affective Disorder, there are things one can do to lift their mood, such as getting out and soaking up the sun on those rare sunny winter days, taking walks, spending time with family and friends, eating healthy, and exercising. It is important to note that Seasonal Affective Disorder can last for the duration of the Fall and Winter months, so if your Winter Blues stay around for six weeks or more, talking to a healthcare provider may be prudent.


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