By Larry Zehr

By Larry Zehr

Know that seasonal depression symptoms are treatable and we have resources to help.

Click here to read the entire October 2019 newsletter

It’s that time of year when people begin to anticipate the coming holiday season. Holidays evoke emotions such as joy, cheerfulness, sentimentality, and memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases surrounded by loved ones, good food, and gifts. But for some, this time of year can be difficult. While many experience joy and excitement, others find they’re not quite able to participate with the same level of enthusiasm as their friends and family.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression affects more than 10 million Americans (about 5% of the population) each year. Starting in the fall, persons who suffer from SAD often experience loss of energy, decreased interest in activities, impaired concentration, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and hopelessness. While the causes vary, research finds the decrease in sunlight, lower production of Vitamin D, and over production of melatonin all contribute to SAD.

At Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, our Welcome Center staff is trained to pay close attention and evaluate if clients are expressing depressive symptoms, especially prevalent around this time of year. Add in any financial, legal, housing, or employment struggles, and the symptoms of SAD can worsen.

So, how can we address a depressed mood during the holidays? In addition to listening to our clients for symptoms, our staff also employs problem solving techniques and offers resources to help clients cope with SAD once they leave the Welcome Center.

Tips on reducing Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Volunteering can help you avoid feeling stuck in the same pattern and provides a sense of giving not of a monetary nature.
  • Encouraging social interactions with others increases the sense of belonging, closeness, and serotonin levels.
  • Move your body! Exercise is key to flooding your system with dopamine and other positive brain chemicals.
  • Talk to your doctor about medication. Many doctors will prescribe an anti-depressant to patients who experience SAD in the months prior to the usual onset of symptoms.
  • Take Vitamin D supplements. Talk to your doctor about the right dosage.
  • Buy a sun lamp or light box. These lamps can re-set your biological clock by imitating sunlight, rhythm, increasing your serotonin and sense of well-being.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet. Autumn and winter foods tend to be heavier and fattier, which can negatively impact the hormones affecting your happiness. Be sure to keep your meals as colorful and fresh as possible. Getting the proper nutrients can quickly alter the feelings of sluggishness associated with SAD.
  • Get outside! Your body needs the Vitamin D and rhythm set by the sun, so be sure to soak up any time you can. If it is too cold outside, sitting near a window to let the sun on your face for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference.

Coping with seasonal depression is difficult, particularly during the stress of the holidays. It is important to take the time to recognize that everyone may not experience the positive emotions the holidays are meant to bring, and to be as supportive as possible. Know that seasonal depression symptoms are treatable and usually resolve within the early spring.

For more information on our Welcome Center services, please contact Larry Zehr at 816-659-8271 or


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