Do you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder? You may want to try some of these proactive strategies to offset effects of the winter blues.
If you are like me and many others who live in areas that have long, dark, cold winters, you may have experienced symptoms of the “winter blues.”
I often have experienced feelings of being extremely tired and overwhelmed compounded with feelings of anxiety and irritability starting in early fall and continuing through the darker months.
Throughout most of my life, I really hadn’t paid much attention to the seasonal patterns of my negative feelings which really affected my well being, but with some reflection and research I was able to attribute my symptoms to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), commonly referred to as the “winter blues.”
The last few years I have been taking some proactive strategies to offset effects of the winter blues and it has made a positive difference in my overall well-being in the winter months.
I am aware of my predisposition to feeling the effects of the winter blues. I live in Northern Minnesota, where the winters are long, cold and dark. I do not ignore that increased darkness contributes to the symptoms I have experienced, and I acknowledge and seek strategies to support my well-being.
Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. articulates that the leading causes of SAD are limited environmental light, biological predisposition, and stress. Rosenthal notes that “people who are predisposed to developing SAD include those with family members with the condition, as well as other forms of depression. Gender is also a factor. Women are about four times as likely to develop SAD as are men.”
I incorporate the five proactive measures in my daily life:
- I take Vitamin D and Omega 3 supplements.
- I try to get as much exposure to natural light during the day as I can, making an effort to get outdoors during the daylight hours everyday.
- I am intentional about scheduling exercise into my life.
- I use mindfulness-based strategies including focused breathing, practicing gratitude and making time for meditation and prayer.
- I use a therapy light. I keep my light on my desk in my classroom. I turn it on in the mornings when I get to work, often keeping the light on and sharing the increased light with my students as I facilitate learning for at least an hour each day.
If you are experiencing any form of depression, or have lost your sense of normal, I encourage you to seek out support to help feel better and to improve your quality of life — it has worked for me!
Note: Please take signs and symptoms of seasonal affective disorder seriously. As with other types of depression, SAD can get worse and lead to problems if not treated. Treatment can help prevent complications, especially if SAD is diagnosed and treated.
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