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Excerpted from an article in the MESSA DiscoverYou newsletter

With precious few daylight hours available, and nothing but frigid temps and gray skies on the horizon, the winter blues can be hard to keep at bay.

If you’re feeling down, don’t be too quick to dismiss those feelings as simple moodiness. Seasonal Affective Disorder — also known as SAD — is a very real type of depression that many people experience during Michigan’s long winter months.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of SAD include:MESSA logo RGB Blue no tag R 2

  • Low energy
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Overeating
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Social withdrawal

Fight back against SAD by taking care of yourself — both mind and body. The sooner you take action to combat SAD, the more quickly you’ll feel like your old self again. Here are a few simple things you can do:

Exercising releases endorphins — the chemicals in your brain that trigger positive feelings. Walking indoors or outdoors, riding a stationary bike or taking an exercise class can help improve your mood and boost your energy, while also helping to improve your overall health and fitness.

Experts say that a lack of natural light during the winter months is a contributing factor to SAD. Getting sunlight can be difficult since most of the daylight hours occur during the traditional workday. Using a light box is another way to bring some light into your life. Look for a light box that emits 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light and filters out all or most UV rays.

Many people who experience depression tend to hunker down at home, especially during the cold winter months. Fight the urge to hibernate and instead make plans to get together with family and friends. Withdrawing from your social circle can compound your feelings of depression, so make yourself get out and have some fun.

If you think you have SAD, talking to your doctor or a therapist can help. MESSA provides coverage for medically necessary mental health services, and you can even talk to licensed therapists online from the comfort and privacy of your own home with Blue Cross Online Visits. Visit messa.org/onlinevisits or download the Blue Cross Online Visits mobile app to get started.

MESSA DiscoverYou is a bi-monthly health and wellness newsletter available to MESSA members. For more information about MESSA health benefits and services, call 1-833-341-6276. Visit MESSA online at www.messa.org