How men can beat back winter blues

Feeling blue during the long winter days can happen to any of us.  For men, feeling depressed or down often begins with the holidays and may not lift until warmer spring days arrive. If a case of the winter blues is lasting longer than normal, it might be a seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal and colleagues first put a name to this disorder in 1984, characterized as a seasonal pattern of major depressive episodes, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The depression of SAD is triggered typically during the winter when night comes early and the weather can be cloudy and bleak.  For some, the body’s natural rhythm of waking and sleeping gets thrown off making a person feel sad, anxious, and tired. People with SAD may also feel hopeless – it is considered more severe and debilitating as it’s more than just simply being tired of winter.

SAD will go away on its own once warmer, sunnier days arrive but it can last from late autumn until late winter or for a full five months in which you can feel miserable.

Symptoms of SAD

Here are some typical symptoms associated with winter-onset SAD:

    • Tend to eat more (especially carbs)
    • Winter weight gain
    • Fatigue and feeling unproductive
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Uninterested in formerly enjoyable activities
  • Feelings of guilt or hopelessness
  • Physical problems such as headaches
  • Less physical activity

How to fight SAD

Fortunately, there are many tips offering good self-care ideas that men can use to beat back SAD. Even when the weather isn’t the best, using these tips can lead to a sunnier attitude:

  • Bring light into your life – It helps to spend more time outdoors getting as much natural light as possible. Or sit near a bright window to soak up sun rays coming indoors.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family – Reach out to friends and family often. Keeping in regular contact with loved ones can boost mood.
  • Stay active – Keep physically active by going outdoors when the weather is nice for a long walk or jog. Do something fun and enjoyable, taking the focus off of winter blues.
  • Don’t bottle up feelings – Express yourself to others. They may be feeling the same way.  Opening up about feelings can be very cathartic and helps relieve stress.
  • Get help – If SAD is disrupting your typical routine or day-to-day functioning, it’s time to contact your primary care physician. It’s never too late to talk with a provider about how you’re feeling. The sooner the intervention, the better the outcome.
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