Why am I so S.A.D.?

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Grace Vander Griend (12) mimics feelings of unhappiness during the winter.

Cicely Bergsma and Linnea DeVange

During the winter you may notice yourself feeling different without being quite sure why. Feeling more tired, grumpy or sad during the dark and cold time of the year could be a result of a weather dependent phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or from a lack of vitamin D, a vitamin that humans can get from food, but is best absorbed from the sun. Counselor Hana Schutz has a lot of experience with the changes in moods presented in kids during this time of the year. “During the winter I am more irritable I would say, less motivated, more tired and just generally sadder,” said Schutz. This problem is exacerbated in Bellingham due to the gloomy climate. “We’re in a northern climate and have very little daylight, especially school-age and working people as we’re inside during the daylight hours,” said Schutz.

People may wonder whether they should take a supplement for vitamin D during the winter, and what exactly the symptoms of this deficiency might be. “From what I’ve seen, it can affect people’s mood and energy. Low vitamin D can mimic low motivation and depression,” said Schutz. “I know it’s a recommendation to get blood tests because you don’t want to just supplement yourself unless you know how much you need.” It’s important not to start taking supplements without first talking with your doctor or a different medical professional. “I would say you would want to talk with your medical provider and get some blood work done. It’s always good to rule out any medical causes. Obviously, the climate we live in is pretty limited and not everyone can go off for a sunny vacation in the winter. Getting outside is always great, but even if you get outside for some exposure, there’s no light this time of year,” said Schutz.

Schutz has another theory about why people may feel down during the winter. “Just speaking personally, I think that there’s a part of our brains that is almost in a hibernation state in the winter,” said Schutz.  “Our energy can be lower, we don’t get a lot of that bright light stimulation, I mean that’s what a light therapy lamp can do – you can trick your brain into having longer days through light stimulation in the morning.” These may seem like small changes, but a huge difference can be made for those that suffer from symptoms of SAD or a lack of vitamin D. Other things one can do include, “They can take supplements, use lights for vitamin D deficiency. Healthy things you do for yourself are going to help with any type of depression. Get outside, even if it’s dark or not sunny, exercise, eat a vitamin D rich food, and hang out with your friends,” said Alyssa Johnson, school nurse.