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Saying No to Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Effective Strategy

Jogging Outside During Winter

The Christmas season is over, and it’s time to face the harsh and barren reality. The lights have been removed until the next year, the tree dismantled and the presents opened. Now that the festivities have ended, it is extremely hard to switch your life back to the ordinary mode. For some people it is simply unbearable. They even develop a special condition which has a neat acronym – SAD.

It seems like SAD is a common ailment which affects people during a winter period. It is especially prevalent among women who constitute up to 90 % of the victims. SAD is considered a kind of clinical depression – definitely, not something to disregard. Even though it is common wisdom that bad weather impacts mood in a negative way, many people still take it lightly which can lead to disastrous consequences in their lives.

Here I would like to give a helping hand and discuss the causes/effects and ways of fighting the so-called winter depression.

Why Winter?

Most people are fascinated by winter. However, most people associate it mostly with December and its holiday season. They tend to forget that winter has three months.

The key perpetrator here is the sun. One cannot think of anything more controversial than this pretty deadly star. The sun is blamed for cancer, but also believed to prevent it. It can lead to a heat stroke, but without it people submerge into a seasonal depression. In this regard the old moderation rule is quite relevant.

Winter makes the day shorter and the nights longer. Rather often you would not even be able to spot the sun on the horizon. The absence of healing sun rays can lead to an intensified feeling of misery and disappointment. One needs to just look at the statistics to realize how powerful sun is. Canada, being to the north of the US, reports twice as many cases of the seasonal depression.

How Do I Know that I Have It?

Easy. Just ask yourself a bunch of questions.

First of all, have you been feeling drowsy and lethargic recently? Do you feel like staying in bed all day and never waking up from your slumber? Has daily routine like paying bills and buying groceries turned into a nightmarish responsibility which you keep postponing?

Do you feel like an outcast? Maybe, you recently screamed at your partner for no reason and then felt intense guilt and regret, which was exacerbated by a sense of worthiness? Have you been trying to stay away from people, avoiding even your best friends?

Maybe, you started to gain weight. Ask yourself, how much has your candy consumption increased? Do you feel suddenly incapable of controlling your cravings and cannot remember the last time you ate anything rather than junk food? Has your self-esteem been affected?

And the most important question to ask is whether all those signs were prominent the previous winter. If not, it could be another form of depression, not necessarily SAD. Nonetheless, it is crucial to take steps to fight it and preferably visit your physician.

What Do I Do if the Diagnosis Was Positive?

There are many things you could try to rid your life of the winter blues. The key here is your desire and determination to combat it.

  1. Get More Light: Light therapy or phototherapy has proven to be conducive to SAD treatment by a great number of researchers. The best option, of course, is to buy the special light fixtures which emulate natural light having 10 or even 20 times higher intensity than the ordinary light bulbs. However, if you are a poor student stuck in the overpriced dorm, it may not be a viable option for you. In this case, I would recommend simply moving your desk closer to the window. Also, take a walk once in a while. Just try to increase your light exposure to the maximum.
  2. Get Moving: Probably everybody knows that exercise boosts people’s self-esteem, creativity and the overall well-being. However, during winter depression the sport setting gains a special significance. Do not be stuck in the gym or in your basement! Go hiking, skiing, sledding – whatever is more fun for you. If you are not into sports, simply take a spry walk and explore the area. If you really don’t feel like getting out of the house, meditation and yoga have been invented specifically for people like you! Just move your mat closer to the window and enjoy those clear thoughts.
  3. Get Friends: Many psychiatrists have demonstrated that simply talking about feelings can lead to a tremendous progress in SAD treatment. Of course, it is better if you go talk to a professional who is aware of the basics of cognitive-behavioral therapy. However, if it is not included in your insurance, don’t get SAD! Maybe, you still happen to have people who care for you. Go and pester them with your feelings. This is what they signed up for after all. If they really love you, they will be understanding and supportive. It will be a great test for all your friends. If, however, you are a lone wolf, get yourself a journal. Writing down your thoughts is a great outlet of pain and frustration.
  4. Get a Doctor: Sometimes, you feel so SAD that amateur methods of coping with this problem simply do not work. In this case you need to go talk to the doctor asap. Psychotherapy combined with medications can do wonders to your mental state. The fact of the matter is that winter tends to disrupt people’s hormonal balance, increasing the level of melatonin and decreasing serotonin. Consequently, it results in moodiness, irritability and a generally negative outlook of life. Sometimes, maintaining this balance requires special medications or supplements. In any case, do not try anything without consulting with your doctor. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
  5. Get Enough Sleep: Because days are becoming shorter, it is critical that you get the most out of them and arrange your sleep in a way to catch the most sunlight. Bad news for the night owls, I know. However, if you want to alleviate the risks of the seasonal disorder, you need to establish rigid sleep patterns.

    Firstly, go to bed at the set time in the evening (preferably somewhere around 9-11 pm) and wake up at the same time in the morning (7-9 am). Do not allow yourself to stay in bed longer as this is one of the principal signs of SAD. Get your 8 hours and get going! Do not indulge yourself and act like an adult. Secondly, buy dawn simulators if you can afford it. Those are special alarms which wake you up by increasing the intensity of natural sunlight.

  6. Get the Right Food: Weight gain is one of the visible consequences of this disorder. Therefore, by eating the right food, you will preclude the deterioration of this condition.

    It is natural for people with SAD to crave nasty food as most of it is full in carbs which are a quick source of energy. Nonetheless, despite its ostensibly positive effect on your well-being, it is disastrous for your health and self-esteem in the long run. It is better to give preference to more healthy options such as rice and fruits or even increase the portions than to succumb to fast food.

  7. Get Those Oils: Aromatherapy is a known method of lowering stress levels and eliminating anxiety. Buy yourself some of the essential oils and take a nice warm bath. It is going to calm your body and soul as well as help sleep more soundly.

Conclusion

SAD is a nasty phenomenon. It disrupts your hormonal balance as well as the circadian rhythm (the internal clock), causing fatigue, irascibility and a general disenchantment with life. However, remember you are not alone in this predicament, as it is estimated that 5 % of the Earth population suffer from it regularly. There is no shame in feeling depressed because of something you cannot control (yeah, winter, why can’t you just go away?). There are people out there who will know your pain (try the Internet).

There is no reason not to enjoy such a beautiful season as winter. It may be cold and dark, but it is also the merriest and whitest time of the year! You can have so much fun with snow – all you need to do is to pay attention to your feelings and try to influence them with the above-mentioned activities. 

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