Dr. Tim Ridley
The Winter Blues
Daylight Saving Time is over. It’s 5 p.m. and the sun is setting, temperatures are frigid, and there’s plenty of snow and ice on the road. Winter is here. Winter is just another season for some, but for those with the “winter blues” and seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it can be devastating!
For many years, as a truck driver, I looked forward to winter – even welcomed it with open
arms. Driving through a bad snowstorm was just another day at the office for me. In fact, I
enjoyed the challenge!
It wasn’t until my last couple of years on the road when I found myself feeling “blue” at the
onset of winter. Not me, I thought. This isn’t happening to me – winter blues!? I am too
positive of a person to have winter cause me to feel sad, lethargic, lifeless!
Yes! It was happening to me! The winter blues are very common, with many of us
experiencing a mood shift during the colder, darker days of winter. You may find yourself
feeling more lethargic and down overall, as I did. Sometimes, you won't even feeling up to driving.
Although you may feel more gloomy than usual, the winter blues generally won’t keep you
from enjoying life. You can still have fun, laugh, and have a good time. The cold, cloudy, and
shorter daylight hours tend to get you down, but you bounce back.
On the other hand, if your winter blues start affecting all aspects of your life, including work
and relationships, you might be experiencing something deeper – seasonal affective
disorder. SAD is a type of depression associated with the change in seasons. It generally
starts in the fall and persists through the winter months – and this happens every year. SAD
is much more than the winter blues.
SAD can be debilitating for some people, if you feel that you’re suffering from SAD, it's
important to get help. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about!
Experts say the primary culprit of both the winter blues and SAD is the lower level of natural
sunlight we are exposed to in the fall and winter. When we have less natural light, we have
dips in serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood.
Disruptions in your body’s internal clock, known as circadian rhythms, are a factor during the
winter months as well. These factors have a direct impact on your mood. And if you're
having trouble with your mood, other things usually start to fall apart too. You may find less
enjoyment in your life, you might not feel like driving, you may start having relationship
problems and complaining a lot.
If you think you have the winter blues or SAD, don’t worry - there is help! First, you must
recognize the symptoms. The most common symptoms of the winter blues are lack of
energy, sadness, difficulty sleeping, not wanting to talk to others, sleeping too much, overeating, and depression. You may also have loss of interest in things you enjoy, isolate yourself from friends and family, feel fatigued and lethargic, and struggle to focus and perform at work. It’s not at all uncommon to feel hopeless about the future and having suicidal thoughts.
One of the worst things to do is to ignore these symptoms. If you feel that you are suffering
from SAD, seek help from a medical professional. And if you’re having suicidal thoughts, call
the National Suicide Lifeline Hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255.
One thing that helped me during my days on the road was that I knew at the end of each
day, it was getting me closer to spring. Yes, it can make for a long countdown, but it worked
for me. Another thing that worked was looking at the beauty of the snow-covered trees and
mountains. There are so many breathtaking winter scenes out there. Try to enjoy them while
getting through the winter blues!
Happy travels this winter and be safe!!
Photo by Dominik Dvořák on Unsplash