Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) affects many people each fall and winter. Dr. Andrew Eberding explains what this is, what symptoms you might be experiencing and what to do to help yourself.
You have probably noticed that the days are shortening rapidly. This decrease in daylight can lead to something that you might have heard of called Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD. The long dark winters in our great northern country can be associated with particular feelings like fatigue, low moods, increased irritability, decreased sex drive, indifference to life and overeating. Then, almost magically, when spring comes, all of these negative feelings fall away.
This occurs so commonly that it is recognized within the medical field with a well-defined diagnostic set of parameters. For some, the feelings are so strong that they can be admitted to hospital. Most people, fortunately, experience it to a much lower extent. It is best to take a proactive approach and do what you can to minimize these feeling before they become overwhelming. The time to do that is now. Here are some things that I recommend to ward off SAD.
Get Some Light
If you know that winter brings an great sense of gloom, you should be strongly considering light therapy. Not everyone needs this degree of commitment, but for those who do suffer every winter, light therapy can make a world of difference. The following factors are important considerations:
- Lux Level: try to get 10,000 lux (equivalent of full daylight).
- Spectrum: Full-spectrum (visible wavelength) light is also crucial
- Size and proximity: small lamps may have 10,000 lux light but may not work at a comfortable distance.
- UV Output: UV light is important to generate Vitamin D excessive amounts are damaging in several ways. Balance is the key. Know what you are getting.
Eat a Supportive Diet
Comfort foods (simple carbohydrates, salt and processed fats) are detrimental and are not beneficial any time of year, but are the worst possible choice in the dead of winter. Instead choose to eat soups and stews with plenty of protein and vegetables. Beans, legumes, nuts, healthy lean protein and hearty fruits should also be regular fare.
Promote the Release of Endorphins
Endorphins are the feel good chemicals that your body produces. There are many ways to promote production:
- Vigorous exercise: If you can do something that gets your heart pumping and quickens your breath. Simple walking may help, but if you can push a little harder the results will be much greater.
- Laugh: Along with laughing comes positivity, so spend time with your joyful friends, watch a comedian or join a laughter therapy group.
- Strengthen your social network, support others and be supported. Share caring interactions.
- Experience sexual pleasure: the sensation of having an orgasm is primarily due to endorphins
Plan a Vacation
If you can financially and realistically afford a getaway to a tropical region then strongly consider taking one. This provides two different benefits. Firstly, this gives you a boost of mid-winter sunlight. Secondly, it gives you something to look forward to in dark days of winter. I find most people do best taking this trip between mid-January and mid-February. After the holiday season has past, but spring is not too far away once you return.
If Necessary Supplement
Certain nutrients, especially if they are lacking in your diet, can be useful to include in your regimen. Consider adding Vitamin D, Vitamin B complex, Polyphenols, Omega 3 oils, L-Theanine and Tryptophan. There are herbals that can also be supportive like Licorice root, Rhodiola, and Ashwaganda.
Don’t wait until you get down before you do something to support yourself, especially if you have a history of low moods in the winter. Take care of yourself because you deserve it!