Many of us feel trapped within the obstacles of our own lives. Each one of us will experience different struggles in our world around us. Some of us struggle with work, family, finances, and each one of us has different coping skills for the changes that come our way.
Change of seasons is difficult for some people—many revere winter as a time of sadness, an ending. However, winter is actually a time of renewal. Winter is a chance for everything to slow down, rest, and rejuvenate. Everything in the natural world changes in the winter: animals hibernate, trees are bare of leaves, and bodies of water freeze over.
When spring arrives in a couple of months, we will be fresh and rested, ready to take on new challenges with energy and enthusiasm. The spring is when wildlife comes alive again, birds are singing, plants and trees develop new buds, and the blooms begin.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (known as SAD) is defined as late autumn and winter depression associated with the lack of natural daylight. People who have Bipolar Disorder tend to have extreme depression during the winter months. Some may feel hopeless and worthless, have thoughts of suicide, suffer from insomnia, and many will turn to alcohol or recreational drugs to help with their symptoms. The use of substances other than a prescription prescribed by your physician can be highly dangerous. If you are on medications, then the interaction can be detrimental. If you are not on any medication, alcohol and recreational drugs can act as a depressant and therefore lower your mood further. It is recommended to avoid alcohol and recreational drugs during SAD episodes or any other form of depression you may experience throughout the year.
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Two possibilities can cause SAD; one is related to the lack of serotonin. Serotonin carries signals and neurotransmitters from the brain to the body systems, mainly between the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. As such, many people who experience regular depression and other mood disorders will suffer from digestive disorders. Some researchers maintain serotonin is regarded as the chemical responsible for maintaining mood balance.
The other possibility is a lack of melatonin, the hormone that is produced by the pineal gland. A lack of melatonin can substantially affect the circadian rhythms that synchronize the body systems for sleep, blood pressure and boost the immune system. Circadian rhythm is the primary function to regulate our day-night cycles. As we age, the amount of melatonin we naturally produce lowers, leading to diseases affected by memory, such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
During this time of year, many people feel the challenge from the lack of sunshine and short days in the middle of winter. It may feel like there are fewer reasons to get up and get things done for some people. This is the season of procrastination.
The lack of serotonin, melatonin, or vitamin D from the lack of sunlight can have profound physical and psychological effects on your body and the body systems. These changes may include: feeling tired and sluggish, general lack of energy, weakened immune system, lack of concentration and focus, overeating and weight gain, and sleep issues, which are normally related to the lack of melatonin being produced and released into the body.
The psychological effects can include the desire to be alone, withdrawing from social activities, and a general feeling of isolation.
There are many ways to combat the symptoms of SAD. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year. For mild symptoms, try spending more time outdoors, go tobogganing, skating, for a walk – the fresh air and any sunshine you can absorb (even through a cloud-covered sky) will help rejuvenate and energize you. Try the following for other ways to help during this season: leave curtains open to let maximum light come inside, move your favourite chair closer to the window, install a skylight. Another option would be “Light Therapy,” which involves sitting near a special fluorescent light box for several minutes each day.
Taking a supplement of Vitamin D (usually in drop format) will help against SAD symptoms. Other ideas are to resist the carbohydrate cravings as they are only a temporary booster to your system. You will feel the down effect faster than consuming something with natural components, such as orange juice or a protein like peanut butter or Greek yogurt.
Monitor your diet during the winter months to avoid the ‘high’ of carbohydrates and the winter weight gain. Be aware of your sleep patterns and make sure you are getting adequate sleep nightly. Sleep deprivation is one of the most disruptive to your body and brain functions.
Remember this simple equation: Less SUN = Less VITAMIN D = Less MELATONIN = Less HEALTH
Mind yourself and your mental health.
**Consult with your doctor before starting any new course of therapy or treatment.