2017 has started off hard for me. I’ve been exhausted, unmotivated, and depressed. I was lying in bed 3 nights ago at 3 in the morning thinking “this is just great. I’m exhausted and depressed, and I still can’t sleep! Argh!” So I grabbed my smartphone and started searching for ways to get my energy back. You guys know me. I have a ton of great tools to help pull me out of slump. But nothing was working and I couldn’t figure out why. And through my search I was reminded….
I have seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as S.A.D.
Miss Bliss here has SAD!!!
That made me smile.
I’ve had this all my life, but because of the drought in California for the last 4 years, the winters have been mild and sunny, so my symptoms were very mild. This year, because of all the glorious rain we’ve been getting (we’re out of our drought!), SAD has hit me hard and I wasn’t prepared. So I did a bit more research to see if there are any new ideas on how to deal with this and here is what I found.
First, I feel a bit silly saying winter makes me so depressed I can’t work. Most people respond with something like “we all get depressed in winter, but most of us still work.” I feel like they are implying that I’m being a baby and should get over it. But here’s the thing, there are over 3 million cases of SAD reported in the United States each year. These are people who are so debilitated by it that they go see a medical professional. About 4 to 6 percent of U.S. residents suffer from SAD, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and as many as 20 percent may have a mild form of it that starts when days get shorter and colder. Many of these people people like me that suffer from it but don’t tell anyone because they are embarrassed, they think they should be able to snap out of it, or they endure it quietly.
However, “It is important to treat SAD, because all forms of depression limit people’s ability to live their lives to the fullest, to enjoy their families, and to function well at work,” says Deborah Pierce, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor of family medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York.
If you happen to be someone who suffers during the winter with deep sadness or even depression, or feel really low energy, don’t beat yourself up. You are not alone. And there is help. Here are some tips on what I do.
- I have a light therapy lamp that gives off light that mimics sunshine and gives my body the light waves it is craving during the winter. The light from this lamp is significantly brighter than that of regular light bulbs and provides different wavelengths.This stimulates the body’s circadian rhythms and suppresses its natural release of melatonin. I usually do this for a whole week at a time with one week breaks in between, so alternate weeks. Some people might want to use it every day until the weather changes.
- Use a dawn simulator alarm clock. This helps to wake the body gently and naturally and gives the body the additional light it needs to adjust to the day. For people with mild SAD, they can use this as their light therapy lamp too.
- Many people who experience SAD can take anti-depressants each year during the winter. I personally have chosen to go the natural route. You’re going to laugh, but I love a product called Happy Camper J I’ve been using it for years, almost always in January. This year I also discovered Ashwagadaha. It’s an adaptogen which means it helps the body cope with external and internal stresses. I’m loving it so far! I’m not medical pro so I’m not recommending necessarily that you use these products. I just like using them myself.
- I love aromatherapy on a regular basis, so I periodically use it to help lift my mood also. “The essential oils can influence the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling moods and the body’s internal clock that influences sleep and appetite,” Dr. Kalayjian says.You can add a few drops of essential oils to your bath at night to help you relax. I use an essential oil diffuser in my bedroom and office. I really like these blends: Mood up lifter or stress relief.
- And finally, I make sure I exercise. During this time of year when it’s so cold outside, this is so hard. And especially when I’m feeling depressed I really really don’t want to do it. But it makes a huge difference. I have a gym in my building that I can go to, so I’m doing that when it rains. But that is boring for me. When it’s not raining, again you are going to laugh at this, I play Pokémon go until I get my steps. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s really helpful. I actually wrote a little book about it if you want to check this out: Pokémon Go Weight Loss
I’ve been doing these thing for 3 days and I’ve already seen a huge improvement! Yay! What a relief. I’m resisting jumping in and overworking myself to try to catch up on all the time I’ve lost. I feel a little bit like I’m recovering from a cold. I’m trying to ease myself back into the hustle bustle of my normal life. And I feel very hopeful that by next week I’ll be normal Moneeka again.
If none of this help, go see your doctor. Know that this is actually a legitimate problem and that you have a right to get it handled. Bliss is about being joyful all the time, even in the winter.