It seemed like the moment we turned the calendar to September, everyone was pulling out their buffalo plaid, sipping Pumpkin Spice coffee, and getting ready to put up their fall porch décor. While many people love fall, there’s a whole crowd of people who may be feeling anything but excited, and if you are, you are not alone. While some people have the post-summer blues and miss the sunny days, numerous people live with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is not that. It’s a clinical and treatable form of depression that like any illness or disease needs care and support.
In an interview with WCAX, Kelly Rohan, a clinical psychologist at UVM said, “When we are having later dawns in the winter, the body is producing the hormone of darkness—melatonin—later in the morning. So the person is in a state of biological night… Most of us at a high latitude like this one, are going to experience some symptoms… So here in Vermont, we’re really likely to suffer from this depression.” She goes on to say that up to 10% of Vermonters live with SAD, which is in addition to the many Vermonters already living with depression. “We’re trying to teach people new ways of coping with this time of year like new habits and new ways of thinking about the winter season, so it’s not as negative an experience every time it happens,” Rohan said.
We can all benefit from adding tools to help us stay healthier this fall and winter, and even add some sunshine to our darker days. Do not wait until you are losing energy or having feelings of sadness but start now. All of us can help increase our well-being and ward off SAD by making time to get outside every day, looking for ways to add in more movement, eating a healthful diet, making daily connections with friends/family, and finding ways to keep track of how we are feeling like journaling or engaging in therapy/counseling.
Many people will also benefit from literally adding more light to their days. With never-ending clouds and days getting shorter an investment in a UV lamp might be just what the doctor ordered, literally! Ask your doctor if you are someone who should consider investing in UV light therapy and how to get started. If you can’t get outside, try to get some time in a sunny window. Feeling the sun on your face won’t just bring you some warmth it can be beneficial to your overall health. It’s still important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, so don’t forget your hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen, even in the darker months.
If you aren’t feeling yourself, you’ve lost interest in things you used to find joy in, aren’t able to eat, or are feeling isolated, reach out! Our mental health, just like our physical health can change – sometimes we need more care and support. We have several resources right in the NEK that can offer support for most of our physical/mental health and well-being. You can always start by talking to your healthcare provider, you can call Northeast Kingdom Human Services, at 802-334-6744.
There is also a brand-new mental health resource to call: 9-8-8. This number is free and will give you access to information on everything from different types of therapies to immediate assistance from those contemplating self-harm or taking one’s life.
Let’s try to make our autumn a little brighter this year. If you know daylight savings is a concern for you, act now. Get your plan in place and use all the tools you can to get to the sunnier spring days ahead. It’s easy to say, “let’s be positive,” or “brighter days are ahead,” but all the positive thoughts in the world aren’t a replacement for action towards better health and wellness. Think of all the tools you have that can keep you well this fall and make a list of all the reasons you deserve to feel well! Make a list of all the ways you like to exercise, the healthy meals you like to cook, a list of places to walk and soak in the sun this fall and list all the people you want to connect with. Keep these lists and plans in your back pocket to help support the darker days ahead. We can think of it as our pocket full of fall sunshine!
Director of The Wellness Center