published by Kekionga Middle School
Feeling sad as the days grow shorter? Does a gray, rainy day make you feel gloomy and tired, but a sunny day can leave you feeling cheerful and energized? Well, there’s a scientific reason for this. Insufficient exposure to sunlight has been associated with low levels of melatonin and serotonin, abnormalities of cortisol, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, and sleep disturbance.
Some of you out there may have also noticed that you find a seasonal fluctuation in your moods, feeling depressed in the winter months. Take a look at your calendar and you’ll soon see why. Each year on June 21 we experience the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. With our longest hours of sunlight smack dab in the middle of summer it’s no wonder we’re happier this time of year! After this date, however, the days progressively get shorter until the Winter Solstice on December 21, the shortest day. Is it any accident then that so many of us run for the hills when the holidays roll around?
With our serotonin in such short supply, the added stresses of living up to our images of the picture perfect holiday are just too much. This is such a real phenomenon that we’ve even coined the phrase ‘Holiday Blues’ to describe it. A more general term for the season long malaise that we fall into is winter depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
Some of the symptoms of SAD are very physical. Appetite often changes in marked contrast to spring and summer. People can experience uncontrollable cravings for sweet and starchy foods such as cookies, chocolate, pasta, and bread, which cause them to put on a few pounds (or more). Dieting seems out of the question. Some notice marked changes in their need for sleep or ability to sleep normal hours. It can become tough to wake up in the morning in time for work or school, and daytime fatigue persists no matter how much sleep they get at night. In deed, people who sleep the most often also report the most fatigue: long sleep is just not restorative. As the days grow shorter in fall, it is the physical symptoms of SAD – appetite, sleep, and daytime fatigue – that are usually the first to be noticed. The symptoms of depression then intensify (January and February are usually worst) and can lead to truly devastating, unjustified feelings of worthlessness or guilt, loss of concentration, inability to make decisions, and even thoughts of death.
Call a crisis hotline – 373-HELP or 1-800-552-0985 or 911 or go to or call a crisis center, emergency room (hospital), mental health center, your psychiatrist or your doctor – If you feel unable to do this yourself, call a friend and ask him/her to help you.