Down in a Hole?
Ah Winter….(que Peter and the Wolf) a magical time of crisp air and wonder. A time where snow may fall or couples may walk hand in hand, sipping hot chocolates in the park. School children playing and snowmen watching over houses in the front lawn. There are many things to love about winter. The clear, cool mornings with frost on grass. A feeling of peace. The joy of fireplaces ablaze and the sound of wood cracking from being dry when the fire strikes it just right.
But then…you wake up, and you feel like bawling. You feel like the world is ending! Your favorite show isn’t on for another three days and you’re out of coffee and OH MY GOD I WANNA JUMP OFF A BRIDGE!!! (que “Tired of Me” by Jesu)
That’s right. With winter for some comes the dreaded SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER. Holy shit, you got SAD!
SAD affects more than 10 million Americans, and about 75 percent of them are women, according to studies by Mayo Clinic, the Oregon Health Sciences University and other researchers. Geography (actually, latitude) also plays a big role in who suffers from it; up to 10 percent of all New Englanders are likely to be affected, but only 2 percent of Floridians and Southern Californians are. Many in my home state of Washington suffer through it, myself included. As much as I love winter and all that comes with it, it’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life during this time of year. So if I act weird my friends, now you know why! (of course, I’m always weird…)
Besides depression and loss of energy, SAD symptoms include anxiety, social withdrawal, oversleeping, appetite changes and weight gain. Because SAD is a type of depression however, there are many options and remedies to help with this.
1) GET OUTSIDE WHEN THE SUN IS OUT
Many of us don’t want to be outside when it’s cold due to various excuses. Sun is sun though. Whether it’s 80 degrees out of freezing, sunlight is good for you and your mood. So during your breaks at work, or off time, if that sun is out, break out the sunglasses and get out there and stand in it, walk in it, bundle up and go for a jog. That vitamin D is important, year round!
2) LET THERE BE LIGHT! (Even if it’s fake)
Throw open the curtains to let the sunshine stream in as soon as you wake up. Install skylights, if possible, and keep tree branches trimmed so they don’t block the sunlight coming through your windows. Or try indoor light therapy. Also called phototherapy, this approach uses different colors of light to treat different ailments as well as UV lamps. You can also use a a light bath, a small appliance that looks similar to a lighted makeup mirror. Light baths use full-spectrum natural daylight bulbs to simulate sunlight and offer some of its health benefits — without harmful UV rays. There are many theories about why light therapy works; that it “tricks” the body into thinking it’s still summer, preventing the hibernation response. Light therapy has been used also to help everything from PMS to jetlag.
3) LET’S GET PHYSICAL
The healing power of touch works wonders also. So get a massage. Or, have more sex. Or both. In humans, oxytocin is released when they hug or experience other pleasant physical touch. For those with depression, massage can alleviate sluggishness, back pain, joint pain, and muscle aches. It can also help with fatigue and sleeping problems. So basically what I’m saying is, if you have someone to do it with, DO IT! If you don’t, go get massages, Either way, it’s super useful. And fun. Because it’s sex. Need I say more.
4) PUT DOWN THAT CAKE MAN!
Eating well is also super important this time of year. Often we think because it’s the holidays we can crash on our diets and meal plans for “holiday food” but by doing that you can be sabotaging your mood also. Warm cereal, hot drinks like tea, and fruit, are several things that can warm the body up and/or raise serotonin levels. But you’ll wanna limit alcohol and caffeine this time of year. Caffeine may give you a brief lift, but it can also cause anxiety, muscle tension and gastrointestinal problems. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant, which can further exacerbate your low mood. Any herbal tea is a better choice than teas with caffeine. Your reduced energy level may cause you to turn to caffeine for a boost, but it can also cause anxiety, muscle tension, and stomach problems, so opt for herbal. Chamomile, peppermint, and cinnamon are pleasant-tasting choices. Drink a cup instead of giving in to your carbohydrate cravings.