Today, I catch a glimpse of the sun and I turn my face to it. If you live in the Midwest, feeling the warmth of it is significant. But if you are noticing a bit of tiredness as the seasons change or if you find yourself eating or sleeping more now that the temperatures have dropped and darkness falls earlier, you may be experiencing SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
While not all of us develop the "winter blues" many of us do and often it can be debilitating. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression which can bring on lethargy and fatigue, as well as oversleeping, social withdrawal, loss of energy, and difficulty concentrating. Here is a definition from the Wikipedia:
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression or winter blues, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer, repeatedly, year after year. The US National Library of Medicine notes that "some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up."
There are several ways to overcome this seasonal phenomenon:
- Eat right. Omega 3 oils found in fish improve symptoms of SAD.
- Light therapy, although an experimental treatment. It mimics outdoor light and causes a biochemical change in the brain which can lift your mood.
- When symptoms become severe, a medical professional may prescribe anti-depressant medication or other psychiatric medicine.
- Psychotherapy is a method of talk therapy, it helps in conveying feelings.
- Find others for support. A network of support is that shoulder to lean on.
- Read a motivational book or engage in music.
- Sleep well and keep a regular schedule.
Remember SAD is temporary. Mayo Clinic believes that light therapy offers a chance to regain the happier mood that one may lose to seasonal affective disorder. "Light therapy, also called bright light therapy or phototherapy, has been used to treat seasonal affective disorder since the early 1980s. Many mental health professionals now consider light therapy to be standard treatment for seasonal affective disorder. However, light therapy hasn't been officially approved as a treatment by the Food and Drug Administration because of a lack of definitive evidence about its effectiveness in clinical trials. Results of some clinical trials have shown light therapy to be effective - and in some cases even more effective than antidepressants - while other research has shown that it's not effective. In addition, most studies have lasted less than six weeks. You can purchase a light therapy box over-the-counter, which means you don't need a prescription. However, check with your doctor before trying light therapy to make sure it's appropriate for your situation."
We are not alone. Statistically, as many as half a million people in the United States may have winter-onset depression. Another 10% to 20% may experience mild SAD. SAD is more common in women than in men and although some children and teenagers get SAD, it usually doesn't start in people younger than 20 years of age. The good news is SAD is treatable.The following coping skills will ease the symptoms:
- Stick to a treatment plan. Make you home as bright as possible.
- Get outdoors on sunny days and soak up the sun.
- Exercise regularly, aerobic and resistance exercise improves the condition significantly.
- Rest and relaxation, practice yoga or visualization.
- Practice stress management, socialize regularly and take a trip if your schedule allows.
SAD need not be your grey day mainstay. Anything that gets the blood flowing will improve your condition. So when the day turns grey, play! It is just what the doctor ordered, just what you need, just in time.