November Updates Archive – 2022

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Diagnosis

As the seasons begin to change, temperatures drop, and the hours of daylight decrease, some people find that their moods begin to change too. During this time of year, many folks experience some or all the following symptoms:

  • Increased sadness
  • Feeling depressed throughout most of the day or during many days of the week
  • Lack of energy – feeling consistently tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased irritability – even smaller things feel frustrating
  • Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy – particularly withdrawing from social activities
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbance – typically sleeping more than usual
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Thoughts about self-harm or suicide.

The diagnosis for this cluster of symptoms is commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Estimates vary, however some research indicates that roughly 5% of the population will experience SAD, while a larger group (15-20%) will experience symptoms associated with SAD, sometimes called ‘winter blues’ during seasonal transitions in the fall/winter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Treatment

If you have noticed some of these symptoms recently, there are several steps you can take to help. Doctors and mental health professionals recommend the following:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet to ensure you’re getting appropriate amounts of vitamins, minerals, and nutrition
  • Spending time outside as frequently as possible, as fresh air and sunshine have been shown to improve mood
  • Getting exercise regularly – 30 minutes several days each week if possible, in order to help relieve stress/anxiety and increase endorphins
  • Spending time with people close to you (friends, family, or your social communities)
  • Light therapy with a lightbox – talk to your doctor for more details.

If symptoms do not improve, additional supports can also include taking vitamin D supplements if recommended by your doctor, seeking out a mental health therapist who may recommend therapy techniques, and/or your doctor or therapist may recommend medications – such as antidepressants.

If you are a Colorado educator, or work in the education system in Colorado, there are additional supports available to you through the Colorado Educator Support Program. Please contact our text line at 303-724-2500 or look through the website and view modules or download resources. The Depression Module (link here) will be especially useful. If you are experiencing thoughts regarding self-harm or suicide, please seek immediate support through contacting the CO Crisis Line: call: 1-844-493-TALK(8255) text: TALK to 38255; or go to your nearest emergency room.