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.