LOGAN — This weekend ends Daylight Saving Time, the day we switch back the clocks and get that much-needed extra hour of sleep. However, it also means it will get dark an hour earlier each day. If you’re one who struggles with the shorter days, colder weather, and the general blah of the winter season, you’re not alone. The clinical version of the winter blues is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Monique Frazier is a Staff Psychologist for Counseling and Psychological Service at Utah State University. She says this type of depression affects about 20 percent of Americans.
“There’s a particular grouping of symptoms that we see. It looks like people oversleeping, but they still feel groggy and sluggish, they’re not refreshed,” Frazier added. “They crave simple carbs and gain weight. People with SAD do tend to be sensitive to light deprivation the year round. So we see that cluster of symptoms.”
Frazier says SAD is triggered by a lack of sunlight. Here in Cache Valley it’s a particular problem, especially when inversions set in. For many of us, she said, it’s easy to fall into a funk. Frazier mentioned there are a number of things we can do, including bright light therapy.
“When natural light or bright light hits our retinas it stimulates the production of serotonin in our brain and so when we shift to the shorter days and, particularly when the inversion comes in, it’s gray and overcast. We are not getting that same level of serotonin stimulation and it impacts our mood.”
Frazier said there are light boxes you can purchase that are relatively inexpensive and she said it is the treatment of choice for people who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In addition to bright light therapy, there are a number of techniques to help ease that seasonal slump:
- Learn to Appreciate the Elements
- Wear Bright Colors
- Stock up on Vitamin D
- Hang With Positive People
- Try Something New
- Start a Project
“A lot has to do with giving yourself things to look forward to in the winter,” said Frazier. “We want to be very intentional about adding positive things to our life during winter.”
If you are interested in learning more about overcoming the winter blues, Frazier is holding a workshop on November 12th. It will be held on the USU Campus in the Merrill-Cazier Library beginning at 2:30 p.m.