Addressing Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people are familiar with the winter routine: bleak, overcast days, sloshing through piles of dirty snow, wind-bitten noses, and what seems like weeks until the next bright sunny day.  There is a word in the Danish language that seeks to combat the anxiety and distress that winter can bring: hygge.  Hygge is a feeling about a place or moment in time; it’s the essence of “coziness.”  Now imagine a fireplace, a hot beverage, and your favorite blanket. Imagine making dinner together with family, or passing the time in the company of good friends with intimate conversation.  The Scandinavian culture seeks to bring the good times indoors, away from the harsh environment, to psychologically survive the long winters. It’s the essence of this term where you can seek to make the winter season manageable.

There’s also a word that defines the antithesis of hygge, and that’s officially referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a form of depression1.  It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans have experienced SAD at some point2.  There are familiar symptoms: decreased energy, insomnia, avoiding social activities, anxiety, to name a few.  Depression is a clinical condition in which medical advice should be sought. In fact, depression is the most common of all mental illnesses and is the number one cause of suicide3. (As suicide cleaners, this is something we are all too familiar with.) So if you or someone you love is experiencing depression, act responsibly. But if there are less critical levels of seasonal affective disorder being experienced, then a bit of hygge may be just the antidote and can make the winter weeks more bearable.

It is also important to have a surrounded by a supporting network and sense of community to help liven up the cold days or engulf the evenings in warm and comfort.  Family, friends, and neighbors can be valuable allies during the bleak season. Enlist your compatriots and share a plan to populate the winter with activities and quiet moments together.  Pay your good intentions forward by slipping a friendly note to your local mail delivery person. Find a companion to plan a trip together; the anticipation and planning can be just as exciting as a trip itself.  Essential oils may aid in in relaxation and relieving tension headaches. Setting goals and having a planning strategy for the season can be instrumental in fighting those “winter blues.”