Are you Sad? Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions in the United States every year, however there is something you can do about it.
January 21, 2015
During the fall/winter season, you may notice a sharp difference in the weather. Notably it may rain a lot more, the skies become more cloudy and gloomy (unless you are in Florida, LOL), and during the winter season you may actually find it extremely cold. With the cold, in many areas, especially here in the Carolinas, you may even get some wintery mix, freezing rain, black ice, and yes even snow. You may be thinking, “So what, that is what happens during this time of the year.” However, for millions of Americans all over the country and even here in the Carolinas, this may bring on intense sad feelings, which may eventually turn to depression. Doctors and licensed therapists call this, “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or “winter depression” according to WebMD.
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder? The following are some of the most notable signs and symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Before I list these, please know that this is not a tool to self-diagnosis yourself, and if after reading this blog, you are concerned that you may be experiencing S.A.D., please make sure to see your medical doctor to receive a proper diagnosis; especially if you have been experiencing these symptoms for days at a times.
- Fatigue or low energy
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Weight gain
- Appetite changes, specifically a craving for foods that are high in carbs.
- Heavy, “leaden” feelings in the legs or the arms.
- Problems getting along with other individuals.
Why is this important to me, you may ask yourself? Well, if you or a loved one is experiencing some or all of these symptoms, I described above, this may make it hard to go to work, school, or even to spend time with loved ones and friends; due to this disorder. First of all, this is a common disorder, as I mentioned earlier, so there is a lot that you can do to treat this. In fact depression, in general, is 80-90% treatable as I describe next.
What you should do if you are experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or some type of depression.
If you feel that you are experiencing seasonal affective disorder or something similar there are many things you can do. The following are 8 things you can do to help with S.A.D.:
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Diagram received from www.wonderwebby.com
- See your doctor/mental health therapist: As I mentioned above if you have been experiencing these signs and symptoms, especially for a few days, it is important to see a healthcare professional. In many cases, counseling may be very effective as well. Your doctor may have a referral for you, or you could look on psychologytoday.com to find a qualified licensed counselor.
- Sunlight: In addition to this, it is important that you don’t isolate too much, even if you want to stay in bed all day (with the exception of being sick), it is important for you to go outside for 15-20 minutes or longer each day, specifically during the warmest part of the day. If for some reason you cannot do this every day, you can also buy a sunlight lamp online at Amazon, or at your local store. The UV light that comes out of this lamp, can be helpful if used when you can’t get out, especially if you are sitting by a computer all day.
- Water: Make sure you are drinking enough water, at least 4-8, 8 ounce glasses per day. Water is very important as you don’t want to get dehydrated which may escalate your S.A.D. symptoms and may make it harder to get better sooner. Water is important regardless as we must stay properly hydrated for general health.
- Good nutrition: It is important to eat 3 balanced meals each day, and for those of you that have the time to prepare six smaller meals, this is even better. Balanced meals would include eating a good portion of fruits, vegetables, almonds/healthy nuts, lean meats/poultry, cheeses, and yogurt etc. If at all possible, please avoid junk food, as this has been known to increase symptoms of depression. For some of this, this will be easier said than done. It is important to remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Do your best to eat healthier, but don’t feel that you have to do this perfectly each day, make small changes to your diet, and do the best you can. If possible avoid sugary drinks and excessive caffeine.
- Vitamins: It is also important to take vitamins, specifically a multi-vitamin, and if you are fatigued B6 and B12 with folic acid can help give you that needed energy. I would even include iron and Vitamin D. Again, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars each month on vitamins. Start small like going to your local grocery store or even your local vitamin world. You may also save money by buying these vitamins online at Amazon.com or Vitacost.com
- Exercise: I know, I know, who has time for exercise. The truth is we all have time and need to exercise. The easiest way to start is to talk a short walk around the neighborhood, or during your lunch break at work. In time you can increase the distance that you walk, and you may even begin to start jogging. You can also take the stairs instead of the elevator, buy a used bike and bike around the neighborhood, and get some small weights and work out at home. HASFIT is a great work out that can be found on youtube.com, and it is absolutely free. They also can teach you how to eat well on their website: www.hasfit.com.
- Mindfulness/Centering exercises: Mindfulness is a great way to center yourself, and although it may at first seem that you are wasting your time, it actually will help focus you to the point that you can then engage in what you want to and have to do which will benefit your schedule. Yoga, is a great way to learn mindfulness to center your mind and also to help with strengthening your body. You can go to a yoga studio, your local gym, and even find these instructional videos online. To learn more about mindfulness visit: www.livingwell.org.au.
- Have fun by getting out of your comfort zone: There is nothing like making sure you are relaxing and having enough leisure in your life. Everything should be in moderation, however; getting out with friends, family, or even doing something fun by yourself, can really help with depression. At first this may seem daunting, therefore; I would encourage you to do these things in baby steps. For example, you can make a small list of what you used to do for fun, and take small risks to engage in some of these things. You can also write down a small list of friends and family that you can call to set up hang-out times. It is important to know that you will need some perseverance as many people are very busy. Some people may not return your phone call and some may tell you that they do not have the time to hang out with you. My encouragement is to continue calling people, and if someone hasn’t called you back, wait a few days, and call them again. Eventually, if you give people time and call enough of them, you will find someone to spend time with. If not, get out there and have fun, you never know who you might meet who may eventually become a friend.
There are many more things that you can do to help with seasonal affective disorder, such as journaling, volunteering, and for those who are spiritual; praying. The choice of course will be yours, therefore my last encouragement to you is: DO SOMETHING POSITIVE!! If you continue to do the same things, although I understand it is most comfortable, then it may be hard to improve your symptoms of S.A.D. in the short term.
For more information, please feel free to schedule an appointment with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 980-263-9608. You can find more of my blog articles at www.charlottecounselors.com and if this was helpful please “like us” on Facebook at Charlotte Counseling Associates.