What is Seasonal Affective Disorder and What Can You Do About It?

Seasonal Affect Disorder, (or SAD), is a disorder that is in the category of depression. What makes SAD so unique is that people notice SAD symptoms during particular seasons of the year. The average individual will start noticing symptoms starting in the fall, around time change, with symptoms increasing during the winter months and then decreasing as the days become lighter with spring and summer.

Some symptoms that you may experience are the following: a change in mood; becoming depressed; feelings of hopelessness; a decrease in energy; change in appetite and sleep; having difficulty concentrating; no longer feeling pleasure or joy in activities you previously loved; and in severe cases thoughts of death or suicide. As you see, the symptoms are very similar to depression but unique to SAD is the following: oversleeping frequently; craving carbohydrates; weight gain; your arms and legs feel heavy; and this can put a strain on relationships.

No one truly knows what causes SAD, but theories from researchers are the following: a decrease in sunlight during winter can affect our biological clock and reduce serotonin and melatonin levels. Serotonin’s role in our body is to regulate our mood. Melatonin is a chemical in our body which also regulates mood but also affects our sleep patterns.

Those at a higher risk are young females, living farther north (longer, dark winters) and those with a family or personal history of depression. Also, those who live farther north are vulnerable to having low Vitamin D levels which can cause feelings of low energy and depression.

Having your vitamin D level checked is proactive, and a simple solution to resolve if your level is low, but check with your insurance for not all insurance companies will cover the cost of the lab test. Got to love those insurance companies-sarcasm.

Currently it is 30 degrees Fahrenheit (in April) right now where I live; so what can you do to be proactive and help your body get through these long winter months?

There are several natural options.

·        You could do a trial of CBD oil. I would advise you have someone help you to determine what that dose would be and to help you titrate the dosage to fit your unique body. Please be sure you use a reputable product that has had 3rd party testing and is free of GMO’s, is organic and research where the product was grown and processed. Not all CBD oils are the same. Also, if on prescribed medication, discussing dosing is important with your MD or Naturopath Practitioner.

·        Talk to a therapist if suffering from depression and feeling hopelessness.

·        Light therapy-you would need a special light box or lamp. The “light” produces a similar affect to natural light which triggers those chemicals in our brain that affect our moods (serotonin and melatonin).

·        Exercise daily, limit alcohol (which is a depressant), and learn to meditate and relax to help your body handle stress more effectively.

·        Take Melatonin at bedtime, again do your research for a quality product, as well as supplement with Vitamin D. Ask a qualified Naturopath Practitioner if your regular MD is not willing to recommend supplements or assist you on dosage.

Essential oils can be relaxing such as lavender. You can put a few drops on your pillow at night or in your bathtub. There are also air infusers you can use in your home. Again, check that the essential oils come from a company that has a good reputation and quality product. Some individuals with allergies, asthma, and previous Covid lung exposure may be more sensitive to essential oils so start out slowly. You don’t want to cause your airway to become irritated. They are showing many individuals who have had Covid do have some form of lung tolerance change.

But most importantly, enjoy the sun as much as you can when it peaks its head out of the clouds!

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