Back in October I wrote a blog post about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I want to revisit it here in the middle of February because for people who suffer from SAD you may be in the worst part of it now. But I have good news! The shortest day (and the longest night) of the winter was over a month ago, so the days are stretching out a little longer now. I hope you will be noticing some relief soon.
I remember living in Northwest Iowa for 10 years. The WINTERS WERE SO LONG. If we hadn’t had 3 kids in sports I would have just stayed at home and hibernated for 5 months. (YES! Winter in Iowa lasts that long) I know getting out of the house and sitting in the bleachers with friends helped me make it through the winter.
Here are the signs and symptoms of SAD:
People often question if SAD is real. And the answer is YES! It is real!
Some people say it’s all in your head. Don’t even think about trying to convince these people. Just accept that they are in a different place than you.
When to see a doctor:
It's normal to have some days when you feel down. But if you feel down for days at a time and you can't get motivated to do activities you normally enjoy, see your doctor. This is especially important if your sleep patterns and appetite have changed or if you notice you turn to alcohol for comfort or relaxation.
If you aren’t sure you are experiencing these symptoms ask a friend that really knows you if you seem different to them. Recently a friend of mine noticed that her husband was really cranky. She asked me if it could really be SAD. Yes, it really can be. When our brain chemicals are off we just aren’t ourselves.
What can you do to help yourself?
Be KIND to yourself: Remind yourself that this is temporary and that it is part of your body chemistry. Give yourself extra time to get things accomplished. Invite an understanding friend over and work together to straightening your house.
Make the most of natural light: If you can sit outside for a few minutes at lunch or on a break DO IT! Natural light helps reduce SAD.
Avoid stress: Are there people in your life that add to your stress? Reduce the time you spend with them.
Call a supportive friend or family member that really gets you: Reach out and tell them when you are struggling.
Eat right and exercise: When we don’t feel great we tend to reach for carbs to give us a little sugar rush. But after the sugar rush comes the sugar crash! So be intentional about eating fresh fruits and veggies. Also don’t skip the workout; working out will improve your mood and increase your health on so many levels.
Look into getting a light box that helps imitate sunlight: One tool that can help reduce SAD is a light box. Light boxes help reduce the effects of SAD.
And a note for friends: If you notice that a friend of yours just doesn’t seem themselves, SAY SOMETHING! It is better to be a caring friend and be wrong than to stay silent and be right.
I hope this blog post helps raise awareness of a disorder that can be very heavy to live with through big parts of the year. If you are struggling please know you are not alone. Oh, and be sure to use your weighted blanket for comfort and help with sleeping!