Do you find yourself growing more withdrawn, depressed or apathetic as winter waxes onward? Is your energy level lower than it was during the summer? Have you gained weight steadily over the winter, and not just immediately after holiday meals? Then you may be suffering from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What is SAD?SAD is a seasonal form of clinical depression. It has the same symptoms as clinical depression, but it usually lasts only for the winter season. Unfortunately, it can sometimes develop into full-blown depression.
How can you tell if you are experiencing depression?You will feel hopeless, apathetic and tired. Loss of concentration and interest in normal activities is also a good indicator. If you find yourself withdrawing from social situations or making excuses to stay home alone, you may be experiencing SAD. Another good indicator is an increase in eating and weight gain not directly linked to a holiday you celebrate.
People often make excuses for themselves, saying that they have spent a lot of time out of their homes already today, and deserve to stay home and relax. Sometimes they decide that eating one more cookie won't hurt, because they worked so hard to prepare that meal. Or it's snowy outside, and why should they leave their nice comfy houses? This is okay, usually. If it becomes a pattern, and you find yourself leaving home less and less often, it may be developing into seasonal depression.
How can it be treated?Like most depression, drugs and therapy can help, but unlike normal depression you are more often capable of treating this yourself by following these simple steps:
Sleep seven to ten hours every night. Sleep just enough to feel well-rested, but not excessively. Excessive sleeping is feeding into the depression, not helping you cure yourself of it.
Eat a steady, balanced diet. This can be difficult over the holidays, but just making sure you're getting enough fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference. Foods high in Vitamin D are extremely helpful, as SAD is partially caused by a lack of the sunlight that helps you produce it yourself. Keeping your leafy greens and veggies coming in will help you maintain healthy levels of nutrients and vitamins. Keep this in mind as you go back for another serving, and plop some more spinach or carrots on your plate.
Another great way of treating yourself at home is to get a light box and do light therapy.Light boxes of an adequate emission level are available online at Amazon, or from other stores for less than $100. Do some research, you might be able to find them for a very good price at a store near you. The light box should start making a serious dent in that depression within three to four weeks. If it isn't working for you, go seek a professional.
Finally, meditation is a great way of decreasing your stress and treating depression. Cognitive meditation especially can help improve mood and memory problems as it helps your amygdala.
Good luck this winter. Keep yourself healthy in mind, body, and spirit.