CALIPH ASSAGAI: Feeling SAD in the winter? Seasonal Affective Disorder, Mental Illness, and How to Brighten Gloomy Days

sac-button-AssagaiOPINION - For years, I wondered why around each October my mood changed dramatically.

I had less energy, feelings of hopelessness, and some mornings just struggled to get out of bed. Dreary days and cold nights simply made me sad, I thought, and there was nothing I could do about it. But in reality, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a mental illness that affects millions of Americans.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, California, SAD is characterized as “recurrent winter depression includ[ing] oversleeping, daytime fatigue, carbohydrate craving and weight gain… Additionally, there are the usual features of depression, especially decreased sexual interest, lethargy, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in normal activities, and social withdrawal.”

Does this sound like you? If so, don’t despair (further).

The phrase “mental illness” carries a lot of stigma in today’s society. In the Black community specifically, we are less likely to seek help for our mental health issues than other groups, but we also suffer from mental illnesses at a higher rate. The truth is mental illnesses are common and treatable.

So, if you are experiencing the above symptoms of SAD, don’t feel ashamed that you may have a mental illness — one in four adults (57.7 million) experience a mental health disorder each year, and it’s possible to recover.

SAD just happens to be highly prevalent, and also one of the easiest to address!

Here are a few tips:

• Change Your Lighting: Purchasing “daylight” light bulbs can change your mood dramatically. According to NAMI California, “Bright white fluorescent light has been shown to reverse the winter depressive symptoms of SAD. Bulbs with color temperatures between 3000 and 6500 degrees Kelvin all have been shown to be effective.”

In my personal experience, putting these bulbs in the places I spend most time in the morning raised my energy levels throughout the day.

•  Take a Trip to Recharge: While the onset of SAD is seasonal, the impacts result from the lack of exposure to sunlight. Take a trip to a sunny destination during the winter months to recharge your batteries.

• Consult Your Health Plan: Many health plans offer Mental Health Services as a part of their coverage. If your symptoms are severe, consult your plan and arrange to see an appropriate mental health professional who can help you with recovery.

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, click here.

_____

By Caliph Assagai

Caliph Assagai, J.D., is the Legislation & Public Policy Director at the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) California and a Class of 2012 graduate of UCLA School of Law. Caliph

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