Be Aware of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Ways to Fight it on Assignment
More than three million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) each year. When the days grow shorter and the weather gets colder, we tend to shrink back into our shells, prone to feelings of lethargy and negativity. If you’re a normally happy person, SAD can sneak up on you and leave you feeling unlike yourself for months at a time. And for travel nurses, it can be even worse. Thankfully, there are ways to fight off these emotions and put a smile back on your face!
SAD can make you sad
SAD is a form of depression that is particularly common during the winter months when the days get shorter and the sun is only up for a few hours each day. Most people develop SAD symptoms in fall, which persist until late spring.
Although “winter blues” are common for everyone — the colder weather and shorter days force you to stay inside more and feel more tired — SAD is a legitimate form of depression that can make you feel lethargic, depressed, and irritable.
Anyone can develop SAD, but travel nurses may be more prone to it because of the added stress of their job. Staying in an unfamiliar location, being far away from your support system of friends and family, and working long hours at a hospital can build on the symptoms of SAD and make nurses feel even worse.
As a travel nurse, developing SAD could mean extra stress during your shifts and lower-quality patient care. For your own health and the health of your patients, you’ll want to be mindful of the signs.
The symptoms of SAD can be sneaky
For someone who has never experienced SAD before, the symptoms of the disorder might make you think you’re just feeling tired or getting sick. However, SAD can be sneaky — it can creep up on you and begin to affect you day after day.
Common SAD symptoms may include:
- Lethargy or exhaustion
- Loneliness, sadness, or apathy
- Excessive sleepiness or insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities
- Agitation or irritability
To catch the symptoms of SAD, consider making a mood tracker or maintaining a diary to give you a space to reflect on your feelings. Review them over time to check for patterns.
Fighting SAD for a happier assignment
If you recognize that you’re feeling lethargic and depressed this winter, it’s important to find ways to fight back. There are many potential SAD treatments that can make your time on assignment much easier.
- Get outside: SAD is closely related to the lack of sunlight, so getting as much sun as you can is imperative to helping you feel better. If you work nights, head outside as much as possible during the day to get vitamin D. Or, if you’re on the day shift, take your lunch outside in the sun or take a short walk.
- Pay attention to your diet: Maintaining a healthy diet is difficult for nurses to begin with but eating unhealthy food can worsen feelings of depression. Try preparing healthy meals ahead of time so you’re fueling your body with feel-good foods.
- Talk to a therapist: One of the benefits you have as a nurse is access to hospital therapists who may be able to provide insight about your depression. Make a therapy appointment to learn more about your feelings and how to combat SAD.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. By recognizing the signs and putting a treatment plan into action, you should be able to power through winter and feel more like yourself in no time.