Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Does this winter weather have you down, maybe feeling a little 'blah'?

Those winter blues are not uncommon, but they should be taken seriously, because it could be a form of depression.

It's known as seasonal affective disorder, and doctors are seeing a lot more cases of it this year because of these long-lasting harsh winter conditions.

"It'd be nice if it was a bit more sunny, but that's just the way it is," heating and plumbing technician Ken Timko said.

Day after day, little or no sunshine can start to take a toll.

"It's very gray, and it just kind of dampens everything," mom Jordan Stevens said. "It kind of puts a little drear on everything."

That drear might be signs of feeling "SAD," or Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a form of depression that usually occurs in the winter as the days get shorter, darker, and colder.

"We've had these cold, cold days, where it's not suggested that you go outside. So, I think we've had our challenges this winter," Margaret Keeler, family nurse practitioner and President of the Lansing chapter for National Alliance on Mental Illness, said.

And winter still has weeks to go making cabin fever and cases of SAD more likely, so the symptoms shouldn't be ignored.

"Everybody has those days, they may have a blue day or a down day, but if the symptoms are affecting their quality of life, then we want them to be able to discuss that with their healthcare provider," Keeler said.

Doctors say symptoms include a lack of energy, feeling hopeless, a change in appetite, and issues with your mood or decision making, which makes it difficult to function from day to day.

"Affects how they can interact with their family, interact with their work place, take care of their children, take care of what they need to take care of at home," Keeler said. "That's when it's really important to seek the proper diagnosis and treatment."

Treatments include light therapy, deep relaxation, and a vacation to a warmer place if you can afford it. But even a nice painting on the wall can help, and just thinking about spring can go a long way.

"I can't wait for the warm weather to get here and all the snow start to melt," Stevens said.

Some are counting down the days.

"I'm ready for it to be over," Timko said.

In the meantime, doctors recommend having a strategy to get your mind off the extreme conditions outside, like soothing music or some exercise.

Proper diagnosis is also key. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor about SAD if you're feeling sad. There could be a different issue going on. It's always better to get it checked out.

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