Clinical Corner: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Clinical Corner

By Laura Friend, RN, BSN, Clinical Nurse Manager

Beat the winter blues with these great tips!

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the color changes of the trees, cool nights, football games, and knowing the holidays are fast approaching. While it’s my favorite season, I always know what’s right around the corner. It starts right after the hustle of the holidays and lasts through the first few weeks of March. Growing up, I thought it was just the “winter blues” because I couldn’t spend my time outside like I preferred, but I now believe I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Symptoms of SAD typically begin in the late fall and begin to ease in the spring. Symptoms can range from feeling tired or having low energy to feeling depressed and hopeless or even having thoughts of suicide. Others report increased appetite, low libido, agitation, and difficulty concentrating.

For me, I feel a lack of energy – I do not want to see friends and I tend to make poor nutrition choices. My seasonal affective disorder was at its worst when I worked night shift; I drove to work in the dark, was awake all night in the dark, drove home before the sun was up, and slept during the limited sunlight. It got a little better when I changed to the day shift, but I was still working in the CVOR with no windows. This will be my first winter working where I will have access to windows, natural light and normal sleeping hours and I am anxious to see how that affects my mental and emotional health this year.

Causes of SAD can include decreased melatonin, which helps regulate sleep patterns and mood. Decreased serotonin levels due to reduced sunlight can also affect and exacerbate SAD symptoms. I personally feel the shorter days and increased darkness makes me feel less energized to do anything, and that triggers a cycle of loneliness, laziness, and further decreased my energy.

Fortunately, there are many different kinds of treatments available. Phototherapy, or light therapy, uses a special light that mimics the sun to help offset the effects of less natural sunlight. These lights are available without a prescription. Some doctors may prescribe antidepressant medications to help balance the decreased levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Counseling, exercise, a healthy diet, good sleep habits, getting outside, and socializing with friends may also help.

If you suffer from SAD, please know you are NOT alone. Medical Solutions can help by offering you a change of scenery, giving you exciting, new adventures, or placing you someplace warm and sunny during those long, cold winter months.

Ready to beat the winter blues with a new travel nursing job? Search for your new job today!

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