As we head into the winter months, you may notice a shift in your own or your loved ones’ emotions and moods. Beginning in late fall and up until spring, many people experience the winter blues, seasonal depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD can hit Milwaukeeans particularly hard because of the harsh temperatures, heavy snowfall, and less natural sunlight, which keep many folks inside their homes, socially isolated, and not physically active. The American Psychiatric Association explains that Seasonal Affective Disorder may cause the following symptoms:
- Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
- Changes in appetite; usually eating more, craving carbohydrates
- Change in sleep; usually sleeping too much
- Loss of energy or increased fatigue despite increased sleep hours
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
As many of us start to feel some of these symptoms and the general heaviness of the season, it may be tempting to rely on substances like alcohol to snap out of a funk and feel livelier. Plus, alcohol is readily available at social interactions like holiday parties and family gatherings. But drinking socially or alone can actually make seasonal depression worse.
According to The Recovery Village, “While alcohol use may subdue feelings of depression for many people but for other people feelings of depression are increased by alcohol intoxication. Whether the actual act of drinking increases the severity of SAD symptoms, it is almost certain that the after-effects of drinking will increase depression. Feelings of anxiety, depression, and general gloominess are commonly experienced as alcohol leaves the human body. For a person with SAD, this process leads to a more intense feeling of sadness and lethargy.”
We encourage everyone to get involved in activities this winter that boost your wellbeing without alcohol. Meet a friend for lunch or coffee; volunteer or help a friend or neighbor; take a walk along one of our amazing trails; learn a new skill through Milwaukee Recreation, or commit to a rewarding project or hobby. These small but significant steps will help you look forward to each day, feel productive, and chase the winter blues away.