It may be disingenuous writing about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when I am at a Caribbean beach with my wonderful husband, but I truly empathize with those who suffer with this during the winter months and can’t get to a sunny place. For me, it isn’t about the cold, though I really am not a fan, it is about gloomy days without sun. I never even liked being in an office without natural light. Though my productivity during the different seasons of the year wasn’t formally studied, fortunately, I know I did much better when the sun was shining and I could take walking breaks outside to get a dose of natural light.
I am not alone and you are not alone!
I am not alone, which is why I am writing about this. There is an article on beinggirl.com aptly titled, Winter Blues. The article notes that SAD (what a name for a truly depressing disorder), can begin during puberty. As part of this, there can be a craving for sweets or starchy foods and the sufferer has less energy and a declining mood. According the National Institute of Health, SAD impacts more women than men, slowly builds during the fall, and has symptoms that are similar to other forms of depression. These are (directly from the NIH site):
- Increased appetite with weight gain (weight loss is more common with other forms of depression)
- Increased sleep (too little sleep is more common with other forms of depression)
- Less energy and ability to concentrate
- Loss of interest in work or other activities
- Sluggish movements
- Social withdrawal
- Unhappiness and irritability
What causes SAD?
According to the Mayo Clinic: “Sunlight enters the brain through the eyes, stimulating the production of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, that supports nerve cell functioning, including mood. Less light results in lower serotonin levels. Darkness stimulates the production of melatonin, which promotes sleep. It's the combination of less serotonin and increased amounts of melatonin that causes SAD.” According to ElaineR.N., no sun, no sun, and no sun cause the winter funky dunks.
Help is possibility!
The good thing about SAD is that there are things that can be done to help minimize the symptoms, and most are more practical then a prolonged Caribbean trip. These are:
Get plenty of rest.
Eat a well-balanced and healthy diet.
Build in a reasonable exercise plan that you can stick with and, importantly, enjoy!
Don’t count on alcohol to help you overcome the funky dunks, as drinking can make it worse.
Light therapy is one way to help manage SAD.
My son-in-law, who is a pilot, shared that the wives of pilots who live in cities, like Seattle, with a lot of cloud cover are more affected with SAD than their pilot husbands. Their husbands get above the clouds and are able to experience the sun more regularly. Therapeutic light therapy requires a special lamp with a very bright light (10,000 lux) that mimics light from the sun. If this treatment option is used, it should be done in a professional environment, so it is done correctly with the proper precautions, like ensuring that the eyes are protected and that the light source is the proper distance away from the person being treated.
Reach out to family and friends for support.
Importantly, stay social. Let your friends and family know how you are feeling and find ways to socialize with the people you like and care about. It truly helps.
Are the funky dunks more then just SAD?
If you find that the funky dunks last beyond the winter months, or that none of the treatment options are helping, you might be suffering from a more serious case of depression. See your health care professional as soon as possible to ensure you get the care you deserve.
To those who may wrongly think of SAD as just another recently created disorder that doesn’t have merit, tell them that Hippocrates reported a link between sunlight and psychological well being in 400 BC. It only took American researchers till the 1980s to legitimize the disorder.
Hope this helps my fellow SAD sufferers find solutions. Are you a SAD sufferer? If so, what works fo you??
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