The Solution to Winter SADness

By Rita Anya Nara

The winter sky looks like death leaking out of a giant, overturned bowl. That putrid gray haze could be eight in the morning, or three in the afternoon.  Same difference, you think, like the day doesn't even matter. Oh really, you’re fine. You’re not coming down with something; you’re just down.  Waiting for something to ease the sense of hopelessness, the lack of energy, the difficulty waking up, the difficulty completing basic tasks. You don’t even know you’re experiencing major symptoms of seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as SAD.

SAD has been linked to a biochemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and a lack of sunlight in winter – with or without an accompanying plunge in temperature.  According to the American Osteopathic Association, SAD can affect up to 10% of Americans per year.  Many cases go undiagnosed, showing all the signs of clinical depression: lethargy, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in normal activities, and social withdrawal.  Many go on an antidepressant medication they won’t need come April or May – and if they decide to go off then, they suffer uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that numb the joy of one of the best times of year.  So is there a more natural and equally effective way to treat SAD?

Yes, and it’s not that difficult. It’s a vacation.

Although it may seem hard to believe, there are countless places out there, right now, where there isn’t a cloud in the sky, and day outlasts night.  You only need to get there – or to the nearest airport. Think of your trip as recharging your batteries.  A trip can revitalize you for a full season the same way an early-morning three-mile jog can give you an invigorating dose of energy for the rest of your day.  In fact, the biggest hurdle you may need to overcome to take “the SAD journey” is to make your plans and follow through with them.  Here are some recommendations.

Explain to others why you need to get away. Don't take any flack from neighbors, friends, and coworkers who view you as self-indulgent for going hundreds or thousands of miles south.  You’re going to be of far more value to others as a person, a professional, and a loved one if you take care of yourself than if you wrap yourself into a depressed ball until the spring equinox.