Christmas is over, the New Year will soon be upon us and the season many dread begins; the season of Winter Blues. This is particularly true if you live in the Northern latitudes and have decreased sun light during Winter. Some may feel a little down after the holidays just because the excitement and activities are over, but for many, it is a real condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
SAD is thought to result from decreased sun light during Winter months but can also be brought on by too much indoor time and not enough natural light. It is not the heat from the sun that is missing, it is the amount of light entering the person’s eyes. Symptoms of SAD often include feeling better in the Summer months then having a noticeable shift in mood and or energy in Winter months. Many experience SAD as feelings of depressed mood, low energy, loss of motivation or desire to do activities once experienced as pleasurable. Others experience sleeping too much or not enough, and having food cravings, especially for carbs or a loss of appetite. Aches and pains are often more noticeable in SAD.
Fortunately there are steps you can take to beat the blues!
1. Check with your doctor or mental health professional about your symptoms. Tell him/her about your Winter cycle of symptoms. Rule out other causes of your low mood and discomfort. Anti-depressants may be considered if all other steps to improve mood are not enough. There is no reason to suffer needlessly for months each year with today’s medications or alternatives such as botanical products and essential oils that some find helpful.
2. Look into purchasing a Full Spectrum Light for home use. This light box imitates the natural light of the sun and can be used at your convenience. Many find sitting in front of a light box in the mornings for up to 30 minutes a day to be effective.
3. Open up the drapes! Try to increase natural light in your home and office. Spend time daily in the sunniest parts of your home.
4. Get Outside! Even if you are struggling to want to go out. If you want to feel better you will do what it takes. Bundle up if you live in a cold climate and get outside, especially on sunny days and allow the sun to work it’s magic. Some sufferers of SAD, including this writer, report that after as little as ten minutes in the sun they feel their “batteries have been recharged”. I often remark that I have solar batteries because the improvement in mood and energy is real for me. I live in Hawaii, but live in a rainy area with less days of sunlight than other areas. I also work in an office long hours daily so the possibility of aggravating my SAD is real, even in Hawaii!.
5. Get Support! There are others battling the same symptoms of SAD. There are online support groups and forums available to help you feel connected. Family and friends may not always understand SAD or even believe it is a real condition, but fellow sufferers understand and can offer support and hope.
In August this year I took a real road trip. Not just a trip across this island all the way to Costco. A real drive- for- days road trip across four states.
The plan was to go meet my seventh grandchild, a newborn baby boy , first born of my youngest son and daughter in law. The plan was that I would fly into Idaho from Hawaii, ride with my adult daughter and share expenses from Idaho to Chicago, where the darling three week old baby lives and to a city we had never been to.
I look forward with great excitement each year for my annual trip “off the rock” (Paradise) and to see all my children, grandchildren and loved ones on the “mainland.” My two weeks get away from work and other peoples’ problems as well as the change in scenery and renewing family bonds is a life saver for me. But here is nothing simple about a simple flight to Boise, Idaho.
I finished work at 5:00 pm on Tuesday and was dropped off at our little airport in Hilo to begin my much anticipated adventure. It was hot, humid, and the sofas smelled of a wet baby diaper, mildew combo. We eventually boarded for the fifty minute flight from Hilo to Honolulu, then a wait of two hours until I could get soaring over the “big pond” for five hours landing in San Fransisco. A wait again and then the last remaining flight to Boise.
Flying is fun you say. Flying is an adventure. Flying sucks. I have a fear of using the lavatory (correct term of airplane pee spot?) so I have not used one in six years! I should not have watched “Castaway”. Ever since that scene in the plane where the lavatory blows up I have been determined to never use one again! How do I manage the over five hours of non-stop flight over the Pacific? No Diet Dr. Pepper for hours before or during the flight. Sip only enough water to keep my throat from drying up and try to nap to make the flight seem faster. I did it! No blowing up in the bathroom on this trip!
To be continued………
I have had a sore throat off and on for about two months. I hesitated going to the doctor because I have many days of slight sore throats due to allergies, ( allergic to some plants in paradise, mildew and the volcanic vog) and asthma. Yesterday I woke early and decided to go to the local urgent care to check out this throat. You guessed it…..Strep.
I am home today on sick leave, not because I feel too sick to go to the office, but because if you tell someone you have strep, it sounds like you have the plague, not to mention that others don’t want to catch it. So even in Paradise, we have to call in sick and take “horse pills” and rest. I don’t have air conditioning, we rely on the tradewinds for that, but this house design was built for mainlanders I am guessing. No windows facing the ocean breezes, and small windows at that.
I will return to work tomorrow. Humidity, allergens, and much work to do in the office require it. But for today, Chico has a playmate, I am typing, and there is a slight breeze coming in my home office window. Most of all there is SUN today! This is the Hilo side, if you know what that means.
A road trip on the Big Island is an all day journey from Hilo to Kona or if you have a lot of time on your hands it is around the island in one day. Hilo is about a two hour drive from Kona over Saddle Road, now called Daniel K. Inouye Highway. Saddle Road lies between two huge volcanoes, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. If you haven’t been across it for awhile there are new improvements at the “rest stop” called Mauna Kea Park, including remodeled bathrooms and a new climbing structure for kids. The air is still fresh and invigorating, often in the mid 50’s compared to in the 80’s down at sea level.
I drove over to Kona on Saddle Road last week, first road trip in a couple months! I usually refer to this trip as my “Costco Run”. There is only one Costco on this island and it is located in Kona. A must is to bring a cooler, as anything cold will be spoiled by the time I reach home. Have you tried “Island Lava”, a baker’s brittle with Lilikoi flavor? It is so ono (delicious) that I polished off a bag in three days! Anyone have a recipe for this treat to make at home, please share!
Life is funny but you have to look for the humor. Laughter is a great stress buster so find something funny in your life! When I can’t sleep I often watch reruns of I Love Lucy or Mike and Molly. Just listening to the dialog for a few minutes usually has me chuckling over Lucy’s antics, or Mike’s mother’s hateful comments.
Feeling down or depressed is normal for most of us at times. If you feel “too low” and your world seems dark, as if the sun has hid itself, it’s time to reach out for help from your family, friends or physician. Most communities have a Crisis Hotline you can call and someone will come visit you in person within a few hours. In Hawaii the phone number to Crisis Line of Hawaii is 1-800-753-6879. I used to work as a Crisis Therapist and this service can help if you are on the edge. If you call, now is not the time to say you are feeling OK. Remember your worst feelings and let all that out on the phone to the Crisis Line. They can’t help you if you are feeling fine.
The main point is Suicide is a long term solution to a short term problem, so take action before all the lights go out. You mean the world to your loved ones and turning the lights out will pain them for the rest of their lives. Life is good and you are only a few days or weeks from feeling better!