Exit Golden Sunshine, Enter Winter Blues

Donna Ison

 

Exit Golden Sunshine, Enter Winter Blues

"O, Sunshine! The most precious gold the be found on earth."

                                                                                 Roman Payne, novelist and poet

 

For people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, these words from Roman Payne could not be truer. When Old Man Winter comes and snatches that precious sun away, a portion of the population feels their energy, positivity, and wellbeing go with it.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, also appropriately known as SAD, is a type of depression that accompanies a change in the seasons. According psychiatry.org, “People with SAD experience mood changes and symptoms similar to depression. The symptoms usually occur during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight and usually improve with the arrival of spring. The most difficult months for people with SAD in the United States tend to be January and February.”

SAD affects about 5% of the population and is more common among women than men. Though the exact reason for SAD had not been determined, it is believed to be associated with the shifts in people’s natural biological clocks and circadian rhythms which occur as the days grow shorter. SAD’s symptoms include depressed mood, reduced energy, changes in sleep and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, and overall malaise.

If you feel SAD has a hold on you, there are some steps you can take.

  • Seek sunshine. Make time each day to get outside and soak up those golden rays.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it. Many who suffer from SAD opt to invest in a light therapy lamp, which emits a bright light that mimics the sun while filtering out harmful UV rays. These lamps are thought to boost mood by increasing natural serotonin levels. The usual recommendation is exposure to a 10,000 lux lightbox for 20 to 30 minutes a day. Seek doctor supervision.
  • Move that body. Exercise boosts mood by prompting the brain to release endorphins throughout the body, which boosts our mood and aids in concentration.
  • Eat your greens. During bouts of SAD, craving carbohydrates is common, as they cause the brain to emit feel-good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. However, unlike exercise, the effects of carbohydrates are short-lived and result in a crash in energy and mood, so it’s best to focus on foods with natural sugars, valuable vitamins, and fiber, like fruits and vegetables.
  • Value Vitamin D. Otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and muscles. Vitamin D is naturally produced by our bodies when exposed to the sun. Therefore, maintaining a proper Vitamin D level in the sun’s absence may require a supplement.

 

However, if SAD is severely compromising your ability to function on a daily basis, or you have thoughts of self-harm, reach out to a medical professional immediately. Both medication and psychotherapy have proven effective in treating SAD.

In the meantime, heed this wisdom from poet, Anita Krizzan: "Spring will come and so will happiness. Hold on. Life will get warmer."