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  • Amanda Schmukler MSW,RSW

How are you feeling about saying goodbye to daylight saving for a little while?

For many, winter is a time to relish in the beauty of a winter wonderland, to get excited about and involved in winter sports, and to enjoy the variety of winter activities and festivals offered outdoors. But for many, the shorter days that come with winter can trigger seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year, usually in the fall or winter. Although the signs and symptoms of SAD are like those of depression, with SAD, these signs and symptoms appear and disappear at about the same time each year. SAD appears to be triggered by changes in the amount of sunlight. As days become shorter, changes in light may disturb a person's biological clock, which controls sleep-wake patterns, as well as disturb neurotransmitter functions, such as serotonin and dopamine.

The main presenting symptom of sad is a despairing mood that is present most days and lasts most of the day, lasts for more than two weeks, and may impair one’s performance at work, at school or in social relationships.

Light therapy has proven to be very successful in treating SAD. There are various types of light devices on the market, and exposure to bright artificial light, right from the comfort of home, has helped many. Light therapy may be used individually, or in combination with other treatments such as pharmacotherapy, psychoeducation and psychotherapy.Spending more time outdoors and increasing exercise have also been shown to help reduce symptoms of SAD.

Do you embrace a winter wonderland, or is winter a challenging time for you? As we head into the shorter days, make sure to take good care of yourself.

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