Where is the sun? Please come back!
Have you ever really thought about how you are affected by the weather?  Are you tired all the time, irritable, stressed, less active than normal and do you sleep more? Or, maybe you have a low mood and low interest in life. The amount of sunlight that you get can affect your mood, appetite, and energy levels.

You could be suffering from SAD! Seasonal Affective Disorder!
As with any type of depression, SAD can be difficult to live with. It can make you feel tired, stressed and unhappy. However, it can usually be treated successfully.

What is SAD?
SAD is sometimes known as "winter depression" because the symptoms are more apparent and tend to be more severe at this time of the year.

The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter. They're most severe during December, January and February.

The symptoms of SAD usually begin to improve in the spring before eventually disappearing.

What causes SAD?
The exact cause of SAD isn't fully understood, but it's thought to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year.  In people with SAD, a lack of sunlight and a problem with certain brain chemicals stops the hypothalamus from working properly.

Who is affected by SAD?
About half a million Americans are negatively affected by the changing seasons and lack of sunlight. SAD is more common in women than in men, with up to three times more women than men affected. The symptoms of SAD are most likely to develop in people aged 18 to 30.

How is it treated?
Light therapy is often used to treat SAD. It involves sitting in front of, or beneath, a light box that produces a very bright light. Light boxes come in a variety of designs, including desk lamps and wall-mounted fixtures. Light therapy has been highly effective. Between 50% and 80% of light therapy users have complete remission of symptoms.

Or is it just the “winter blues!” You could be suffering from the “winter blues,” which is a milder form of SAD.  When the sun is shining, people tend to feel happier and more energetic.

People with SAD have more severe depressive symptoms.  
It's normal to have some days when you feel down.  But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor.

You can make simple lifestyle changes to help improve your symptoms of SAD.    Try to get as much natural sunlight as possible – even a brief lunchtime walk can be beneficial.

Make your work and home environments as light and airy as possible.

Sit near windows when you're indoors.

Get plenty of regular exercise, particularly outdoors and in daylight, if possible.

Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

If possible, avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage stress.

Talk to your family and friends about SAD so that they understand why your mood changes during the winter – this will help them to support you more effectively.

All of this information is on the website, www.nhs.uk

You can also check out, www.webmd.com and www.mayoclinic.org for more information.