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Are All These Gloomy Days Leaving You Feeling Down? Here's What You Can Do

Looking up at a palm tree in front of Los Angeles City Hall against a gray sky.
Another gloomy day at L.A. City Hall
(Photo by houze
via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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In years gone by, this time of year would mean reveling in the additional sunlight provided by daylight savings as we planted our strawberries and lilacs. But storms have been pummeling Los Angeles since January, with the most recent round of atmospheric rivers resulting in on-again, off-again precipitation and downpours.

And that has made typically sunshine-filled Southern California pretty deficient of natural light.

I suppose the moment is upon us, then, to accept that this rain isn’t a fluke or a one-off; it’s here to stay, at least for this season.

With that said, all this gray and cold might have you feeling down. For some people, those weather-related blues could lead to a more severe condition known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, which causes clinical depression tied directly to lack of sunlight.

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According to experts, clinically diagnosable SAD is less likely to occur in climates like ours, even with the recent gloom, because it’s more often triggered by months of unrelenting gloomy days.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen and whether it’s clinically diagnosable or not, a lack of sunlight can cause SAD-like symptoms for some people.

What does SAD feel like?

“What's similar in the two situations is the connection between the characteristics of the weather or the climate, and the psychological reaction to it,” said Lawrence A. Palinkas, a professor of social policy and health at USC who researches SAD.

Symptoms of SAD include low energy, sluggishness, problems with sleeping and carbohydrate cravings.

“Many of the symptoms that we experience are almost similar to hibernation,” said Palinkas.

How to feel better

Coping with the disorder, or symptoms that share characteristics with the disorder, often involves preventive measures. Those can include making sure exercise routines are in place prior to the winter months, and preparing your living space with items you know you’ll want or need.

“Preventative measures can come in the form of ensuring that you have physical needs to keep you comfortable, like a jacket, heated blankets or working heater,” said Atalie Abramovici, an associate marriage and family therapist at Root to Rise Therapy in West L.A. “Others come in the form of habits that you've solidified.”

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It’s important to get those in place in advance, Abramovici added, because once the gloomy weather hits, it can be harder to start a new routine or take care of yourself properly.

“That way, when that mental barrier of braving the cold comes on, you have a plan,” said Abramovici.

If these measures don’t work or if symptoms persist to the point that they are interrupting your daily routine, it may be time to seek outside help.

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