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Post-Holiday Blues? After vacations and the generalized chaos of the holidays, it’s easy to feel a little down returning back to regularly scheduled life. Sometimes, these feelings last for periods after the holidays though, and can impact your life in more serious ways.
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a clinical term used to delineate the negative effects that the winter months can have on our physical and mental wellbeing. According to PSYCOM.NET, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a category of depression that emerges in particular seasons of the year. Once thought to be an exaggerated claim of, basically, winter blues, SAD is now clinically recognized, with an ironic acronym to boot. SAD symptoms can be exhibited in the spring and summer months, but commonly are noticeable starting in the fall months, progressing in intensity by the time winter arrives.
Although we as humans continue to live our lives in winter as we had in the summer months due to all the technology we have, it is important to know that winter is still nature’s time to pause growth and prepare the world for rejuvenation and rebirth in the spring. While some animals hibernate to combat this, lots of animals put on a layer of fat and heavy fur to protect themselves. Humans crave carbohydrates and sleep even more during this period.
This is our natural instincts surfacing. Our bodies are trying to save and stock up on energy stores to prepare for the lack of vegetation and natural prey that would follow winters initiation.
There is a lot of speculation regarding the cause of SAD but commonly it can be traced back to one prominent theory. When the days get shorter, colder and gloomier, your body picks up these cues and produces more melatonin. Melatonin releases chemicals that aid in sleeping. The increase in melatonin also means a decrease in serotonin which is a chemical responsible for feelings of well-being and happiness.This, coupled with the lack of Vitamin D most of us receive due to the shorter days and less time spent outside, is thought to contribute to SAD.
How Common Is It?
Unfortunately, SAD is four times more likely in women than men, with an estimated 10 million Americans affected every year. SAD can be hard to distinguish if you are suffering depression year round, which is why taking account of seasonal patterns in your symptoms is important in diagnosing.
Symptoms are often an overlap of clinical depression symptoms. They include:
- Loss of joy or interest in things that once brought you joy or interest
- Physical pain in the joints, or other areas of the body
- Suicidal thoughts
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
Top Ways to Fight It
A combination of the following items can be used to combat SAD.
- Vitamin D – One of the speculated causes of SAD is the lack of sunshine our bodies are receiving as a result of shorter days, causing a Vitamin D deficiency. This can mess with our internal circadian rhythm and causing a shift in our hormone balances. Supplementing with Vitamin D can help. This is my favorite Vitamin D supplement, also containing Vitamins A and K.Looking for more reasons to supplement with this amazing vitamin? Check out my post, here.
- Light Therapy – By mimicking the sun through awesome little boxes of sunshine, like this one, you can create the same affects in your body by sitting near one for 30-60 minutes a day. Make sure that if you are going to invest in a light box, do not purchase one that has UV rays. Blue, Green & White lights are best for those with SAD, not to be confused with my most recent red light obsession for improving skin quality.
- Keep Moving – If your climate is anything like mine, it is COLD OUTSIDE. Did I say cold?! I MEANT FRIGID. Which honestly really sucks because one of my favorite ways to exercise is taking long walks outside. Because of the weather, I have resigned myself to more indoor activities when I need a good workout, or I bundle up for a good walk on the days I can get outside while it’s still sunny out. One of my fave new exercises is an aerial ribbon class. It takes a whole new level to what I consider dancing, literally. Not only is it a great exercise, but I look INSANELY majestic twirling around in the air in satin ribbons.
- Meetup Or Talk It Out – The wintery weather can leave us wanting to hibernate inside, but one of the best things to aid SAD symptoms is human interaction. Schedule time for tea, dinner, or just a phone call. Sometimes I avoid calling because texting is so easy these days, but I always feel better after talking to a loved one on the phone.
- Focus On a Healing Diet – There is science documenting the ways that processed, chemical saturated meals can slow us down physically and mentally. You probably have experienced this if you have had brain fog from a gluten detox. Foods that are nourishing and nutrient dense make us feel better. These foods can supplement crucial nutrients, like Vitamin D, in our body that may be depleted as a result of the darker, colder months.
Sometimes being nocturnal, like myself, can come in handy in these colder months because I have trained myself to wake up during times of peak sunlight. But sometimes I miss that time frame completely. And it can feel really weird not to see any sunlight all day. I definitely will be grabbing one of these lightboxes to supplement until I can get back onto a more normalized circadian rhythm.
What are your thoughts on SAD?
Have you had luck with any other ways to combat the side effects of the winter blues?
Let me know!