With winter looming, be ready to spot (and treat) seasonal blues

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ST. LOUIS -- The change of the clocks may mean a change in your mood. With winter looming, it’s getting darker earlier and colder faster.

That can lead to a bigger problem – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a common type of depression where your mood changes with the weather. Michelle Petrosky, SSM Health's Director of Nursing for Behavior Health Nursing, sees an uptick in the illness this time of year.

“Those days that you just don’t want to get out of bed or that you’ve had plenty of sleep the night before and you’re still exhausted and tired throughout the day,” Petrosky said. “Those are definitely symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.”

Like any other illness, there are treatments. Exercise and sunlight – anything that boosts serotonin, really – can help. Try not to let the crummy winter weather keep you inside.

“Go on a hiking trail. Do a small tour. Go to local museums, go for a bike ride,” Petrosky said. “Those are all really great activities that you don’t have to spend all of the day outside.”

If a healthy diet, sunlight or exercise don't work, turn to a doctor. Physicians can help decide if medication or psychotherapy are needed.

There's also growing evidence that light therapy helps. It involves sitting in front of a specialized lightbox that mimics natural sunlight. It sounds fancy, but there are lightboxes for as cheap as $35 online. Just be sure they're measured at 10,000 lux – the typical intensity recommended for SAD.

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