Don’t Be S.A.D.: How Travel Nurses Can Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s that time of year again when the days get shorter, colder, and darker! The change in weather can make most travelers feel a little blue, which is completely normal. But as a travel nurse, that feeling can take a toll on the travel nursing experience. When people have less exposure to light, lethargy and wanting to be alone can rise to the surface, affecting your performance during your travel nurse assignment—no one is totally immune.

This feeling many of us get around this time is called Seasonal Affective Disorder or simply S.A.D. A change in seasons triggers this form of depression, usually when fall starts. It can lead to lethargy, sadness, and irritability, potentially bringing about heavier feelings like shame, guilt, and anxiety. Anyone can develop S.A.D., but travel nurses may be more prone because of the added stress of their job. Staying in an unfamiliar location, being far away from your friends and family, and working long hours can build on the symptoms and make nurses feel even worse while completing their travel nurse contracts.

Summer and Winter S.A.D.

It’s essential to know the symptoms associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder so you know how to combat them. There are two different versions of S.A.D.: Fall-onset and Spring-onset (i.e., winter and summer). They each have their own seasonal symptoms but share a few, including:

  • Feeling hopeless: Negative moods that include feeling lonely, worthless, or guilty are linked to S.A.D. 
  • Loss of interest: Another sign of S.A.D. is no longer wanting to spend time with friends or family. This could make things more difficult for travel nurses when they connect with their coworkers who may want to invite them to social gatherings.
  • Difficulty concentrating: The sleep problems that come with S.A.D. could also mean trouble focusing. For travel nurses, this could drastically affect their job performance and sometimes be the difference between life and death.

 Summer S.A.D. symptoms include:

  • Insomnia 
  • Poor Appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Anxiety

Although travel nurses can develop S.A.D. in the spring and summer, it is more prevalent during fall and winter. A few symptoms may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Cravings for high carbs
  • Lack of energy
  • Weight gain

So if you find yourself snapping at fellow travel nurses and staff or scarfing down snacks when you aren’t really hungry, it may be more than just the winter blues. Luckily, there are ways to put a smile back on your face! Here are a few ways to fight and prevent S.A.D.

Four Ways to Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

1. Savor the Sun

S.A.D. is closely related to the lack of sunlight, so getting as much sun as possible is imperative to helping you feel better and improving your mood. For travel nurses in colder climates, find ways to invite the sun into your home. Intentionally pick decor colors that bring you joy. For example, if you love flowers, buy your favorite and put them in the places where you spend the most time, such as the kitchen, bedroom, and living room.

Also, make an effort to go outside every day, even if it’s cold outside—bundle up! Even 15 minutes daily can make a difference in how you feel. You’ll want to carry that positive energy throughout your travel nurse assignment.

2. Eat Smarter

A healthy diet is considered a great way to lower your risk of depression while also improving your physical health in the process. Eating unhealthy foods can worsen the depressing feeling. Arm yourself with a healthy meal and snacks from home instead of reaching for the quick fixes—you can do it!

3. Exercise

Physical activity is also known to help lower stress, which should alleviate the effects of S.A.D. Find ways to get moving, whether jogging on the treadmill, hitting the slopes, or even taking the stairs at work. Additionally, participating in group workout classes is a chance to connect with others, which could help if you’re feeling lonely.

4. Get Help

Family and friends can be significant sources of support for travel nurses living with SAD. Even if your travel nursing contract takes you far away from your regular support system, a phone call or video chat can remind you that you’re not alone.

A combination of treatments such as light therapy, psychotherapy, or medications can help treat S.A.D. professionally. Consult a medical doctor or psychologist, particularly if your symptoms worsen or you have thoughts of death or suicide.

Travel nursing provides a unique change of scenery, but travelers can also run the risk of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Anyone can get S.A.D., but recognizing the signs and putting a treatment plan into action can help you power through winter and feel more like yourself in no time! 

If you’re eager to put these tips into action, visit our job board for available travel nursing jobs. Happy travels!

learn more