Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Are you SAD?

I think it's safe to say that the majority of the country has been fully experiencing winter this year so far, and sadly, according to our local weatherman, it doesn't look like spring is coming anytime soon.

"…February is likely to bring a lot of nasty weather our way. To repeat… I do NOT think we’ve had our biggest snow, yet." -Chris Bailey, our awesome weather man

So how are you holding up?  Are you enjoying all the snow and sub-zero temperatures?  Can't get enough of bundling up and freezing your buns off just to take the dog out?  Loving piles of wet, snowy clothes from the kids?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Winter can be hard to get through.  For most, it's just an inconvenient nuisance.  Some love the cold and snow.  If it's within the month of December, I'm one of those that welcome it!  However, if you are like many of us out there and have a hard time making it through the cold winter months you might be suffering from a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D.

Some of the common symptoms of S.A.D. include :

  • Sluggishness
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Increase in appetite/weight gain
  • Less energy
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Loss of interest in work or other activities
  • Social withdraw
  • Irritability 
  • Sense of unhappiness
The main cause of S.A.D. is actually very simple. Lack of sunlight! When the days grow shorter it means fewer hours of sunlight.  This can mess with your internal clock which tells you when you should be awake and when you should be sleeping.

A reduction in exposure to sunlight also causes a reduction in serotonin and melatonin in our bodies, each of which greatly affect our mood. Who knew the sun, which CAN pose some serious health risks if we don't take the proper precautions and limit our exposure, is also the main key to our mood and level of energy!

However, since most of us can't run away to a sunny beach for a few months every year, what are we to do about this?!  Well, here are some simple things you can do to help fight the symptoms of S.A.D.

  1. Number one on the list of things you should try to do is to get your daily dose of natural sunlight.  I know this isn't always easy to do in the winter time, but even on the grayest of days if you can get outside for just 15 minutes you'll be surprised at how much this will help boost your mood. Investing in aclear umbrella will ensure you can still take a short walk even on those rainy days. Or maybe eat lunch outside if possible. Believe it or not your body will still absorb some Vitamin D even on cloudy days and your mood will boost!
  2. If you can't get outside, make sure to try to let in as much light as possible. Open all the curtains and blinds in your home and let the light flood in. If this isn't enough you may want to seriously consider light therapy by purchasing a special light that mimics natural sunlight! I don't have one yet, but I can't wait to get my hands on one! I have friends who use this to help with their S.A.D. and swear by them!
  3. Even though you may not feel like doing it, exercising and increasing your heart rate will increase serotonin levels which will in turn increase your mood. It's best if you can exercise in the morning to help set the mood for the rest of the day.
  4. Making healthier food choices will go a long way in helping how you feel throughout the day. High carb, high sugar foods might make you feel good for a little while, but will soon cause you to crash and make you tired which in turn only adds to the feelings of depression.
  5. Stay busy! Use this time to keep your mind and hands busy by tackling those unfinished projects you never seem to get around to or maybe take the time to learn something new! Maybe try your hand at sewing or take a class you've always wanted to try! Find something that interests you and that you will get excited about and look forward to doing. One thing I find that helps keep my mind distracted is to tackle a room or closet that's needed cleaning or reorganizing for a while. Not necessarily 'fun', but it kills two birds with one stone, keeps me busy and gets my house clean!
  6. Laugh!  The Bible says that laughter is like a good medicine and it's true! Watch a funny movie and laugh yourself into a better mood!  
If you have found other things that have helped get through these rough winter months, please share with us!

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