It’s the time of year when some Iowans get bogged down with the blues, or what may actually be seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.
About five-percent of Iowans are hit with symptoms like low energy, no attention span and grouchiness during the winter.
Dr. Kelly Fairbanks, a clinical psychologist in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says the Christmas season is not responsible for you feeling like a Grinch.
“It’s not because you’re around your in-laws at the holidays,” Dr. Fairbanks says. “It is because you are not getting enough exposure to the sun. There are decreased daylight hours and your activity level decreases during these months and your body doesn’t regenerate its own energy as well.”
Fairbanks says SAD is caused by the lack of sunlight during the winter months.
“Poor energy, fatigue, decreased attention, concentration, irritability and general sadness,” she says. “Those are the symptoms we see during the winter months and it has to do with decreased daylight and decreased exposure to the sun.”
Fairbanks says there are relatively easy things you can do to beat the winter blues.
“If there was anything that is going to help beat the blues, it’s going to be exercise or just being active,” she says. “Not necessarily physical activity, but also social activity, staying plugged into your social outlets, using your social resources and maintaining your diet.”
Fairbanks says those with severe symptoms may want to consider heading south or to another sunny destination that’s not Iowa for a few days.
“These cloudy, long, winter days do bring us down,” she says. “If you can get away for a vacation to the south, if you have that luxury, you absolutely should. The more sun exposure you can get during these months, the better.”
Those who experience anxiety or depression are more likely to feel the effects of SAD. Therapy using a special type of light is helpful for some people, as well as vitamin supplements. Others need counseling.