Short Winter Days and Holidays: Six Ways to Sidestep SAD

winter-Zach-Dischner-flickr.jpg

As the Christmas Carol goes, “It’s that time of year when the world falls in love,” but it is also the time of year when daylight savings time is over, daylight hours are shorter, and many people suffer from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Our body’s circadian rhythm, or its 24 hour internal clock, is by nature in sync with the natural world. When our external clocks are adjusted for daylight savings time - forward or back - it throws our internal clock a space-time curve ball that it may have trouble catching up with. Plus, in many areas of the world winter days are short, limiting our contact with circadian rhythm-regulating sunlight.

When our natural bio-rhythms are off so is our production and release of hormones, and this can affect our energy level, sleep patterns, and mood. Some people will notice symptoms of SAD including irritability, fatigue, feeling “heavy,” sleeping too much, emotional hypersensitivity, appetite changes and weight gain.

Six Ways To Sidestep or Minimize SAD

The best defense against SAD is a good offense, so do the following to ward off SAD, or to keep symptoms at a minimum.

  1. Nutrient Rich Diet, Supplements. Eat a variety of protein foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—plenty of dark-green leafy veggies. Make sure you consume essential fatty acids by eating healthy oils (e.g., olive, coconut), fatty fish (e.g., salmon), nuts and seeds. If you think your diet may be lacking, consult a doctor or qualified herbalist about taking supplements.
  2. Stay Active. Regular exercise benefits everyone, but anything you do that gets your body moving can lift your mood. This includes housework, gardening, dancing, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, and making the bed.
  3. Relax Regularly. Whether it is Tai chi, controlled breathing, listening to relaxing music, organizing a closet, or soaking in the tub, we all need to give our body and mind a break from routine stress. Whatever activity relaxes you will do.This includes engaging in personal interests that stimulate your natural enthusiasm or curiosity.
  4. Enjoy the Sunshine. Take every opportunity to soak up some sunshine. If your sun exposure is very limited, you might consider artificial light stimulation designed to counter symptoms of SAD.
  5. Stay Socially Active. Sometimes to feel better we need to do what we may not feel like doing, such as socialize. Make plans to spend time with friends or family at least once or twice each week.
  6. If Necessary, Get Help. If you are taking care of yourself and still struggling with a depressed mood, irritability, or other symptoms of SAD or depression, consider seeing a mental health professional. When someone listens to you with your best interests in mind, positive things can happen. We all need help sometimes.

The holiday season can exacerbate symptoms of depression for some people, too. These six suggestions can also reduce depressive symptoms, or maybe keep them from worsening.

Photo credit: Zach Dischner / flickr

 
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