By: Shandalla L.Rigby, MSA, LMP
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD is a form of mild depression that is generally thought to be due to the decrease in light as the season changes and the days get shorter. It is also known as the "winter blues." It is characterized by moodiness, irritability, sadness, discontent, and excess sleepiness. Less commonly, there can be more severe symptoms such as: loss of interest, appetite changes, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
In a state like WA, where the daylight hours are very short during the winter months, it is not uncommon to see this disorder cropping up. However, there are some very easy ways to prevent this disorder.
Get your Vitamin D checked. Vitamin D is generated by our bodies using the sun. It is natural for this vitamin to decrease during the shorter days of winter. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are very similar to SAD. Your primary care physician can do a blood test to check your levels for you.
Take a B-Complex that includes Folate/Folic acid, Vitamin B-6, Riboflavin, and B-12. B-Vitamins help your cells function at their optimum level. They are co-enzymes that support your body's ATP by helping you convert your food into usable energy. This can give you a mood boost and increase your overall energy levels.
Take a Fish Oil supplement. Fish oil is full of good essential fatty acids that nourish the brain and decrease inflammation. Further, research has shown that taking 1000 mg of Fish Oil can be effective in combatting mild cases of depression. See your healthcare provider for a dose that is right for you, especially if you're on prescription blood thinners.
Get outside and get some natural light. Whether it's just taking a walk, going snow shoeing, or going skiing, this will have a positive dual effect on the body. You'll reap the antidepressant effects of a little exercise, and you'll get some natural light to help boost your Vitamin D reserves.
Exercise! I can't say this enough. So many health related issues can be handled by adding a minimal toamount of exercise. Research has shown that brisk exercise (about 20-30 min per day) can relieve depression and its related symptoms by up to 70%.
Light therapy. Buy a light therapy box and sit in front of it. It mimics natural sunlight and is very versatile. You can use it while you're reading, sitting at your desk working, or watching TV. You can purchase one at a health retailer like Pharmaca or order it online.
Use Aromatherapy. Diffusing aromatherapy in the air can help lift the spirits and ease depression symptoms. The most common oils used are: orange oil, grapefruit oil, lavender oil, or eucalyptus oil. You can use an essential oil diffuser or if you just want to keep it simple, grab a pan, put 3 cups of water in it, and add 10 drops of your chosen essential oil. Simmer on low, adding water as needed.
Enjoy your friendships. Usually after the holidays and parties, many of us do little socializing while winter is passing. Recovering from the busy holiday season is a good idea, but don't hibernate for 3 months. Make sure to schedule dinners and happy hours with friends and family, attend a class you'll enjoy, volunteer at a charity, start a book club, or go to the theater. Anything that will help you enjoy yourself and shake off the blues. Remember, if you're feeling lonely and have the winter blues, there's likely someone else who feels the same way. Don't forget, you can enjoy friendships and fun in the winter too
If your symptoms seem unmanageable, please see your primary care physician for help. There are many other ways that you can treat SAD that may work better than those I listed above.
Original Article Published in The Points Living. Feb 2017. edited: 2/8/2017
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any disorder.