Let's go for a look through the PRISM!
It is the time of year that many experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Why do we get sad in the winter and what can we do to make the winter season easier on our mood?
We may start feeling sluggish and sleepy more often, crave carbohydrates, feel down in the dumps and feel like crying for no reason. We may feel more irritable or get those negative messages in our heads that this or that is going or not going to happen. Our exercise program may get put on the back burner or stop completely. We may gain a few pounds. We just feel really depressed!
The first thing we need to do is to get educated about what and why we are feeling this way. The big second is to realize that this will pass when spring comes and there are things we can do during the slump to make the feelings less intense and frequent.
Getting educated may also require asking for help from a professional who understands and believes in SAD. Hopefully, unless the depression has become too severe, they will be able to guide and support you through utilizing natural methods of treatment for the wintertime blues.
Symptoms usually begin in October or November and subside by March or April. Scientists have identified that the neurotransmitter serotonin may not be working as efficiently because of the lack of sunlight. The pineal gland produces melatonin, which is what the bears produce to hibernate and causes the sleepy effect. We feel and may act like a grouchy bear.
The best initial treatment is light therapy. I have used Ott Lites, full spectrum lights, in every lamp in my home except my bedroom. They last for years and are extremely energy efficient. They do help.
One of the many articles that I read was an article by Jenna Hollenstein about Seasonal Affective Disorder. She offered a disclosure, which is exactly what I experienced and would like to share. She stated, "Full Disclosure: I don't drink alcohol anymore. I stopped several years ago for many reasons, including depression. But I'm adding it here because when I did drink alcohol it made my SAD much worse."
That is hard to do when the big holidays are during the wintertime and the alcohol is flowing and "Cheers" are being shouted. However alcohol is a depressant and this can add to the downer effect.
I do try to drink more water if possible especially if I have been eating more carbohydrates than usual. It is so easy to eat proteins, fruits and vegetables during the summer but that "thrifty gene" kicks in in the winter telling my body that I need to be prepared for an Arctic Episode! I know I am not going to starve in a snowstorm but my genetics still believe that could be the case. I try to limit the carbs to a sweet a day or a small bag of chips, not eat after 3:00 or 4:00pm and drink as much water as possible. It is not perfect but it helps with flushing out the system and can be helpful to increase my energy level. Low carb stews or soups can be very comforting.
Exercise has been my salvation for most of my life and is, per the literature, the best treatment for anxiety and depression. We can't ruminate, stay on a troubling thought, during the time we are exercising aerobically, doing yoga or playing a sport with a buddy. The trouble is getting out in the cold that I truly don't like and like less as I have aged. I am learning to not chastise myself if I miss a day or even a few days but my body won't let me go for long without burning off the adrenaline residue that has built up from winter stress and undesirable worry. Walk it off!
The last thing of the day is to give myself an accolade and love pat of some type. I have been putting my hand on my heart and telling myself, "I love you because . . . ." It does not have to be a big thing. You can give yourself a hug and say something nice to yourself. Self love is not just good for your soul but good for those who love you.
Lastly, don't let the winter lovers get the best of you. Some people love winter and their enthusiasm can make you want to cast them to the cold. SAD is real so don't let the winter warriors and those that tell you to "get over it" get the best of you. Remember, when warm weather comes you will be bouncing in the heat while they are miserably sweating but try to be kind with your thoughts and words. Keep on the sunny side, at least mentally, until you can spring back in the warmth of sunshine and spring.
References: 7 Things You Can Do to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder by Jenna Hollenstein, December 10, 2013