Can you feel it? The ground beginning to warm and the air filling with the fresh new smells of spring time.
Finally, and thank GOD.
I have a friend, who recently moved up here from California, reach out to me and ask if her “unfamiliar” depressive feelings had anything to do with the weather. Laughing, I told her she had joined the 85% of us in the PNW that struggle with the condition called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder associated specifically with Fall and Winter weather. She wasn’t thrilled.
Basically, when we don’t see the sunshine (or get our subsequent Vitamin D allotment) for months upon months, our moods take a swing downward. Grumpy cat, anyone?
This Fall and Winter has been an especially long and harsh experience, and even those who usually aren’t affected by the dreary days have been feeling a bit down in the mouth.
The sun has made its reappearance, but as we very well know, will most likely hide its rays until after June prances by into July.
For this reason, I encourage everyone to take a moment to stop and really evaluate their mental and emotional health. S.A.D. is often a precursor to the more severe depression, and should be closely monitored.
Here are a few symptoms to look at to see if you’re one of the millions that suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder:
*Problems getting along w/people
*Hypersensitivity to rejection
*Heavy or “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
*Appetite changes, especially craving foods high in carbs
In conjunction with the above symptoms, additional feelings of depression that reoccur through the day, or feeling hopeless or worthless, or even having frequent thoughts of death or suicide are a strong indicator that something is wrong, and please see a trusted physician or naturopathic doctor.
There are a few theories about what causes this SAD disorder, which mainly center around the loss of sunlight exposure through the fall and winter months. Reduced sunlight causes a drop in serotonin, as well as disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which play a huge role in sleep patterns and mood.
After evaluating your symptoms and speaking with a physician, there are steps you can take to avoid experiencing SAD, or at least decrease the symptoms in your life.
1) Light Therapy
Light therapy is also called phototherapy, and you sit close to a special light therapy box, which exposes you to bright light, mimicking natural outdoor light. Phototherapy appears to cause a change in brain chemicals, which in turn causes changes in mood. This type of treatment is one of the first lines of defense against the type of SAD experienced here in the PNW. Before purchasing a light, do your research and speak with your doctor.
2) Vitamin D
Easily one of the easiest things to accomplish, boosting the Vitamin D in your daily diet through supplements will help. Get your Vitamin D levels checked through a blood test, and see where you are on the scale. Over 85% of those of us living in Western Washington are deficient or on the lower end of the spectrum. Vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet (B) rays of the sun, usually when highest in the sky for maximum exposure.
Obviously, this year made for minimal opportunities for our bodies to make Vitamin D, also known as the “Happy Vitamin”. So, cranking of the Vitamin D3 is highly recommended, and sometimes even prescribed by doctors.
Natural sources of D3 include fatty fishes like tuna and salmon, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
For me personally, when I have forgotten to take my Vitamin D3 supplement, I can tell that my mood is generally more sour than without. I really do love my happy vitamins.
3) Anti Depressants
For some people, the hurdle to find peace of mind and a happy heart during the fall and winter is simply too great a feat. Enter anti depressants. Prescribed under a doctors care, many find that a low dose of a gentle anti depressant will help make the dreary winter months seem less dreary. Overcoming the stigma attached to taking anti depressants is something that many people encounter. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, and ask all of your questions.
Ah yes. The one thing that we all know we need to do, and rarely find the energy to do so? Yes, I understand because I am right there with you. Perhaps if I shared my own methods, you could find some inspiration and maybe even success in this department.
Walking. I have a rare auto-immune disease that has rendered many types of exercise extremely painful, especially if I do not maintain the exercise on a consistent basis. After my mother’s sudden death, I became severely depressed and lost all desire to exercise. After all, if you really don’t care, then it doesn’t matter. There were more pressing things to attend to – like surviving through each day.
Overcoming my depression has been a struggle. It’s raw. It’s real. It’s there. Choosing to engage in activities like exercise and working out sometimes seems impossible.
So I started small. I started walking again. Walking in itself wasn’t hard, but it was an emotional trigger for me. When I walked in the past, I would call my mom and laugh and chat as I walked. Sometimes she would join me and we could walk and chat and laugh together.
At first, walking was done in private with tears streaming down my face. Gradually, I managed half an hour of walking without crying. Walking created an energy that I knew I needed, and so I fought through the emotional and mental barriers to get there.
If you can do nothing else in the exercise world – walk. Get a warm raincoat and some favorite galoshes and walk every single day. Start slow and work your way longer and faster. It will pay off in more ways than one. I promise.
Until next month,
Publisher / Editor