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Seasonal affective disorder: How to fight the winter blues

Signs of seasonal depression can include lingering sadness, lack of energy and difficulty sleeping.

DES MOINES, Iowa — With brutal, bone-chilling temperatures back in the forecast starting Wednesday, if you're feeling the "winter blues," you're not alone.

We're right in the middle of solar winter, and with "Blue Monday" passing this week, seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD or seasonal depression) could be near its peak.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) calls SAD a form of depression which recurs during the colder and darker months.

Symptoms include:

  • Lingering sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Craving carbs and over-eating
  • Feeling irritated, hopeless or worthless
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activites
  • Difficulty sleeping or too much sleeping
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

NAMI says the prevalence appears to vary with latitude, age and sex. People living at higher latitudes, younger people and women are the most at risk.

Health experts say it's important to stay active and close with family and friends to battle those winter blues. Exercise can be the most important of all. It produces endorphins that help elevate mood and enhance brain chemistry.

Credit: WOI

It's also important to prioritize relationships, according to Dr. Kevin Carroll, the vice president of behavioral health services at UnityPoint.

"To have a close group of friends or family that you can talk to about things that are important to you, is incredibly important," Carroll said.

Finally, we can't forget about sleep! Sleep is the most important part of starting the day on the right foot. The best kinds of sleep, with the most REM and slow-wave sleep cycles, typically come after high intensity workouts. Those set up your mind and body for recovery the next day.

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