Thursday, November 14, 2013

Don't be SAD

I am choosing to write about this topic so it can shed some light (this will be a pun later) on something that can help others besides me. Year by year, the more self aware I become the more I try to understand the way I feel in the winter. I am talking of course about the "winter blues" or "February blahs" or even it's clinical name Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). 

Experts say SAD is caused by decreased amounts of sunlight. The less sun we are exposed to the less serotonin  is released in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for giving a soothing and calming feeling. The result is fatigue, cravings for carbohydrates, and depression. 

I am currently reading a book about the subject and I'm finding that understanding is the first step in defense against this reoccurring issue.  The more I read the more I learn that I am not completely overtaken with SAD like some others may be, but I also understand that I don't like to try to fit myself into one box of symptoms. I only know the way I feel and I'll just let it be unique to me.

In the late Fall/Winter I feel:
-sad and bummed out that it's dark at 5:30 p.m.
-decreased desire to be social
-increased desire to want to be warm and in bed
-sad due to the lack of ability to sustain much outdoor time due to cold temperatures
 -lower energy level
-caged physically which leads to feeling caged mentally

One proven affective way to combat poor mood during this this time is light therapy. Light boxes are fixtures either in the form of a desk lamp or a box that are filled with full spectrum light bulbs that are meant to mimic the sun's natural light. Prices in these fixtures range but many are very expensive. For now I am going to try some less expensive methods before resorting to purchasing a light box.

-Replacing regular incandescent light bulbs with full spectrum light bulbs in my bedroom to see if that has any positive effect. They can be purchased from a hardware store. 
-I am trying a St. John's Wort supplement. It is a natural herbal supplement that has been clinically shown to treat symptoms of mild depression. 
-I am going to push myself to take a walk at least two days per week on my lunch hour. Since I won't have much daylight after I get out of work each day I am going to try and take advantage of the daylight on my lunch hour. I know this one might get a little tougher as the days get colder and colder but since I want this winter to be better for me, I am going to be persistent. I am keeping walking shoes, a hat, and scarf in my car so I won't have any excuses!
-I am going to keep my workouts up to at least 2-3 per week. Exercise is also a very good factor in combating Seasonal Affective Disorder. 
-I am going to have goals to work through over the winter. 
-I am going to try to trick myself into loving winter. I am usually am not a fan of cold, grey days, and views of brown naked trees. But I am going to challenge myself into seeing as much beauty as I can this time of year. 

Goals really help me to have something to focus on and work toward any time of the year. However, they seem especially important now. I've put together a little goal list and perhaps it will keep growing as the weeks go on. 

-Walk at least twice per week on lunches. 
-Workout at least 2-3 times per week. 
-Read all the Journey books (these are Girl Scout education books. There are 18 in all ranging in content for girls aged 5-18). Reading them will help me recommend them to girls when they shop in the Girl Scout store. 
-Travel over winter break. With my job at Girl Scouts I am fortunate to have time off between December 21st and January 5th. I plan to do a little bit of traveling during this time. 
-Plan a trip for spring. I hope to save enough money and vacation time to take a trip in Spring 2014. Over the winter I hope to get the details of this prospective trip straight. 

If this too is something you struggle with please give some of my tips a try. Learn as much as you can about the subject, understand it, and take steps to overcoming it. I will keep you updated as the winter progresses. If you find anything that works for you, please don't hesitate to share with me!