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Why So Sad? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

post by Pat McBride

I have always loved the rain! The first droplets heralded an immediate dash for wellies and umbrella followed by an immediate exit to the yard. Living in California, there were no worries about getting soaked to the skin or sick, we simply had a blast jumping into puddles and splashing around. As far as my mom was concerned, with six children under 12 years old cooped up, God had made us waterproof, “Everyone out! Go have fun, and don’t traipse water across the floors when you come in.” Every kid should have it so hard.

That was then, this is now. Days and days of dark, wet or cold weather can affect adults and children negatively, and I realized how serious this could be when I visited a friend in Seattle over the Christmas holiday one year. Seattle is a beautiful city with great shopping, sightseeing, restaurants, and one of the most stunning Christmas trees in city center I had ever seen in my life. The weather on the other hand was very cold, very wet, very dark and gloomy every single day. Geeze, “What a bummer.” Worst of all, amongst the glitter and holiday cheer, people all around me were blue as blue could be. What was wrong with these people? Well, they’re not sad because they’re on Santa’s naughty list; they actually have SAD, seasonal affective disorder.

About 6% of Americans have been diagnosed with the disorder in which the decreased daylight of the winter negatively impacts a person’s mood, sleep, energy, work and overall attitude. While a small percentage of people may be diagnosed with the clinical disorder, just talking with people who live in areas where winters are severe or constantly wet and dark reveals that millions of people get the blues when the weather is constantly bad. So if you are having a tough time adjusting to the winter darkness, cold and rain, here are few simple things you can do to perk up your mood.

Light up your house

Light up your house

Open the drapes or blinds to let as much natural light in as possible during the day, then before it appears too dark, turn on a few more fixtures to brighten up the room. You can create the illusion of a longer day to stave off the blues. Nothing worse than feeling like it’s time for jammies and bunny slippers at 4:30 just because it’s dark.

Go outside while its light and exercise

Go outside while its light and exercise

Go for a walk during lunch or break times from work, or go straight out and exercise as soon as you have a free half hour. If the weather is bad, and you don’t do the gym thing, there are many public swimming pools that offer year round open swim times. This is especially good for youngsters affected by SAD. Getting in and splashing around with the kids is good for you too!

Eat healthy fresh foods

Eat healthy fresh foods

Lots of people comfort eat when they’re blue. Recognizing this can lead to better food choices, and not having to lose the dreaded winter 20 when the skies brighten and it’s time to think about spring.

Get away

Get away

If you suffer from SAD or seasonal blues, planning your vacation to the tropics to fall during the worse of the weather is a good idea. Obviously this takes time and preparation, but is well worth the effort if you feel better. Take advantage of the off season rates to many places in the world, and try somewhere new and different--- as long as it’s sunny and warm!

SAD light therapy

SAD light therapy

I’d never seen them before I went to Seattle, but thousands of businesses located in areas where winters are long and dark have SAD lights. Therapeutically they work like sitting in the sunlight, and are available for home purchase. They should only be used after discussing your current health and medication issues with your physician. Light therapy may be contraindicated by many disorders and medications.

As always, when in doubt, a call to your physician is the first line of action if you begin to feel unwell. He or she can rule out a serious depressive, sleep or biochemical disorder that may be causing you to have similar symptoms to SAD. Never feel that your issues are silly or will take up your physician’s time, they are there to help.

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