Is Winter Making You Feel Like Hot Trash? Here's What Might Be Going On.

So many of us are cranky, in need of a nap or altogether physically and emotionally depleted right now. It may not be our fault.
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We’re officially in the throes of winter, and many of us are feeling cranky, in need of a nap or altogether physically and emotionally depleted. And it may not be our fault. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a subtype of depression that some people experience only during certain parts of the year, is very real.

The low-grade sadness, as David Klemanski, Psy.D., MPH and an assistant psychology professor at Yale, refers to it, affects about 5% to 6% of Americans (nearly 13 million people!) pretty reliably on an annual basis during the same seasons. And then, when the seasons change — poof! It’s gone.

Most people who struggle with SAD feel it in the late fall and winter, when we get far less natural light and warmth, but it can occur at other times, too.

Though general low-grade sadness is an unfortunately common symptom of SAD, it can also affect how much we sleep (causing some people to hibernate in a way that’s detrimental to their lives) and how and what we eat and drink, and it can initiate a loss of interest in the activities that usually bring us joy.

Klemanski chatted with us — Raj Punjabi and Noah Michelson, co-hosts of HuffPost’s “Am I Doing It Wrong?” podcast — about how SAD typically manifests, why it happens and how we can save ourselves from feeling like hot trash during the grey, bleak winter months.

If you think you might have SAD, the first thing you want to do is talk to a professional about it, Klemanski told us. Receiving a clinical diagnosis for whatever you’re going through is crucial to accurately treating it and, in turn, feeling better as soon as possible.

Once you have a diagnosis, structure tends to be key in moving forward. Kelmanski recommends taking an audit of your daily routine to gauge if you need to adjust it to ensure you’re getting enough natural light, moving your body, and potentially attending therapy and/or taking antidepressants. Connecting with other humans is especially crucial for coping with SAD, he said.

“The number one thing that could help modify our moods, in the moment or long term, is having a good support network,” Kelmanski told us. “So if you know that fall is a tough time for you, who can you rely on for support? Who’s going to help you get out of that funk when you’re in it?” He suggests getting a solid support system in place — whether that’s your chosen or biological family, friends, co-workers or whoever else will help lighten your mood when you’re in your wintery feelings.

We also discussed the potential benefits of bright light therapy, checking your vitamin D levels and how alcohol or weed can affect your mood if you have SAD:

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