Now that Daylight Saving Time is over and it's getting darker earlier, many people may suffer from seasonal affective disorder — so the New Jersey Department of Human Services wants to offer coping strategies.

About 9 percent of adults and teenagers in the Northeast are impacted by SAD — a type of depression related to the change of seasons, said Valerie Mielke, the assistant commissioner for the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Symptoms include loss of interest in work and day-to-day activities, mood changes, being lethargic, feeling unhappy and irritable. Expect an increased appetite, which leads to weight gain, increased sleep, daytime grogginess, less energy and the ability to concentrate at work or school.

Mielke said there are medical treatments that can help. A therapist or psychiatrist may recommend counseling, prescribe medicine or recommend light therapy. That involves going into a dark, enclosed room and having your body exposed to light for a period of time to help lift your mood.

But there are other coping mechanisms that don't involve a doctor that can help individuals suffering from SAD, says Mielke.

Spend time with friends and family. Do not be alone and isolate yourself. Keep your house well-lit. As it starts to get darker earlier, at least your home will be brighter, hopefully lifting your mood. Take a walk outside each day, get some fresh air and just clearing your head, getting the blood flowing is another way to chase away the blues.

Mielke also suggests practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga and tai chi. Eat more well-balanced healthy meals. Try to sit close to windows during the day to experience the sunlight bursting through as well.

Mielke said if you do some of these techniques or seek medical help, these symptoms should start to disappear and should not carry over til we spring ahead.

If you or someone you know suffers from SAD, you can call New Jersey Mental Health Cares for information at 1-866-202-HELP (4357) or go online at www.njmentalhealthcares.org.

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