12 Nov Winter is Coming: Seasonal Affective Disorder or Holiday Dread?
Winter is coming. This phrase is one of warning and constant vigilance for both the Starks (Game of Thrones) and those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD generally show up around the end of October and stick around until spring. If you’ve been diagnosed or think you may suffer from SAD, common symptoms and treatments are listed below.
There is also a significant number of people that experience pronounced anxiety, depression, and/or grief during the holiday season. When symptoms lift with the end of the December holidays, most likely it’s not SAD you’re suffering from. It’s challenging, but it’s possible to enjoy the holiday season. Setting up intentional strategies and implementing loads of self-care is necessary.
Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
- Depressed mood
- Change in diet; generally more carbs leading to weight gain
- Fatigue & lethargy despite sleeping more than usual
- Either restless movement (shaky legs) or slower than normal movement (halting speech)
- Feeling worthless or guilty without a known cause
- Decreased concentration & focus
- Lack of interest in activities that you normally enjoy
- Anxiety up to and including panic attacks
- Suicidal ideation
- Light Therapy
- Exercise, outdoors if possible
- Regular bedtime and wake-up time
- Plan holiday & weekend activities to avoid isolation
- Talk therapy (psychotherapist)
- Low carb/high protein diet (nutritionist)
- Anti-depressants (psychiatrist)
Just the Holidays?
Maybe some of the symptoms above resonate and the treatments seem like good ideas. However, once the holiday season is over you feel fine. January motivates you and you don’t really mind a dreary day.
If this is more you, as stated above, it’s probably not SAD. Get curious about what stresses you out, causes anxiety, or depresses you from November to the end of December?
Possible Causes Holiday Dread
- Anniversary of a distressing event (divorce, death of a loved one, cancer)
- Tendency towards perfectionism
- Dysfunctional family relationships (immediate, extended, in-laws)
- Child custody issues
- Financial concerns
- Alone in town
- Social anxiety exacerbated by holiday events
- Fear of driving or planes
- You were adopted
- In recovery
Take Care of You
If something above resonates, take care of yourself. Plan something reasonable for in home and other events. Give yourself permission to let some things go. If you want to skip an event because you don’t want to go – don’t go. Be kind to yourself at the same level that you are kind to others. Self-care is important.
Starting therapy or going back to a trusted therapist during the holidays or if you have SAD is a good idea. Therapy offers you a safe, quiet, healing space.
Essentially, therapy gives you a 50-minute hour that is all about you, not your mother or your kids. Your therapist won’t lay a guilt trip on you. I promise you on behalf of therapists everywhere.
For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Kate Murphy, LMSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Chamblee, GA, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.