A post about SAD and how you can lessen the symptoms if this is something you see occurring in your daily life.
As humans, we are greatly influenced by the environments we surround ourselves in. Throughout the winter months, it is not easy to stay as motivated, positive and content as we are during the summer.
Personally, I am a summer body. The sun makes me feel some sort of way that I cannot explain. I thrive on hot days and have really come to not like being cold. When I moved to Penticton, in the Okanagan, I thought I would be experiencing less cold of a climate but boy I was wrong.
Second try now and I have moved to Vancouver. The rain capital. However, I do not like to think of rain as a downer. Rain is refreshing and rejuvenating, we could not live as humans without it. Rain grows our plants and cleans our air but can also bring a lot of people down.
I will admit that Seasonal Affective Disorder is easy to be consumed by and can have many negative affects on the human body BUT your state of mind plays an HUGE role on how you feel. If you wake up everyday, dreading the weather, you will notice negative emotions. On the other hand, if you wake up with a positive attitude and optimistic mindset, you may notice more positive emotions.
Now let's get into what SAD is and how we can treat or prevent it.
According to the Mayo Clinic,
"Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer" (2018).
Now take a moment to reflect on your past, have you experienced this before?
Previously, Rachel and I had a harsh winter in 2015/2016. We both realized that the weather and other situations in our lives resulted in using having SAD. It was not fun, we were emotional, confused and stressed out. The year we moved in together, we both promised each other that we could not let this happen again.
The Mayo Clinic offers a list of symptoms once can experience when diagnosed with SAD:
Now, it is important to notice if you feel these symptoms only throughout certain seasons or throughout an entire year. If this goes on longer than a few months, it would be a good idea to see a physician.
In the winter months, we see people with SAD very much oversleeping, overeating and having extremely low levels of energy. Do you feel this way?
Mayo also states some of the potential causes of SAD:
Once Rachel and I noticed ourselves feeling this way, we realized something needed to change. Here are some ideas of how you can overcome the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder without having to visit a physician:
1. Take your Vitamin D
As Canadians, we are prone to having low levels of Vit D throughout the non sunny months. Each individual requires a certain dose of Vitamin D so I am not going to recommend an universal amount because it may not work for all of us. (PERSONALLY, I take 6-8 drops of 1000 IU's daily). Keeping up with these doses can help your immune system and energy levels.
2. Create a list of things you LOVE about winter
Some ideas include: Snow, blue sky on a cold day, skating, knitting, wearing mittens and scarves, tea, looking at Christmas lights, family events.
3. Prepare your body for colder temperatures
An idea from Rachel:
"I also think it's a good idea to practice being cold so it is less over whelming and you can feel better about leaving the comfort of inside. So during a hot shower, switch the water to cold for like 30-50 breaths and let the cold water touch all of you, then turn it back to the hot temp. This will not only help your immunity, but it will push you out of your comfort zone, and you feel more alive after."
I will not stop telling everyone how importance this factor is in your overall health. Take advantage of how you body moves. Walking in the winter is one of my favourite activities and can easily burn as many calories as a hard gym session. Notice your surroundings!
5. Get enough sleep
Since it darker more often, go to bed earlier and maybe give yourself a bit of time to sleep in. Do not get mad at yourself for being tired, it is what our biology has evolved from. Winter is a time to rest and rejuvenate, but not sleep all day.
6. Eat healthy
Don't forget to have your daily intake of greens, vitamins and minerals throughout the cold seasons. Indulge from time to time which treats but don't let that become a habit. Take your vitamins to encourage healthy levels throughout the body.
7. Learn how to recover your body faster from over indulgences
Throughout the holiday season, it can be easy to fall into a state of lower mood and energy, especially after a night out with some friends. Here are the ideas I found that work best for me:
-A HUGE glass of water after a night out of drinking before bed
-Some sort of snack before bed to absorb the alcohol
-A healthy, balanced breakfast with lots of carbs for energy
-Vitamins and Electrolytes
-Allow yourself treats but follow with a healthy snack or meal to encourage proper digestion
8. Light Therapy
Many of those who live with SAD, invest in light therapy. You can find a way to bring it into your house or have it done by a professional. It provides you with a good length of exposure to healthy light, to increase positive neurotransmitters and emotions throughout the body.
9. Yoga/ Meditation
Maybe it is time for you to create a meditation sequence for yourself. Maybe you need to write down some mantras so you can repeat these to yourself daily. Don't be afraid to try new things. I like to notice when the full and new moons are happening to ensure I can adapt to them accordingly with rituals and habits. Humans are attached to the weather, the environment and most especially the moon and sun.
10. Fresh air
BREATHE IN THE COLD AIR. THAT IS ALL IT TAKES. (If you can't, put some peppermint oil underneath your nose).
11. Non-prescription Medications
In the past, when I was struggling with figuring our what would decrease my anxiety symptoms the most, I tried both of these. I noticed positive benefits but did not carry on with the doses. From time to time I take 5HTP if I am feeling overwhelmed or anxious.
5HTP- 5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of the chemical serotonin. Serotonin can affect sleep, appetite, temperature, sexual behavior, and pain sensation. Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is used for several diseases where serotonin is believed to play an important role including depression, insomnia, obesity, and many other conditions.
GABA- GABA is taken by mouth for relieving anxiety, improving mood, reducing symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also used for promoting lean muscle growth, burning fat, stabilizing blood pressure, and relieving pain.
12. Stay social
As humans we crave connection. Instead of pushing people away at this hard time of the year, bring them in closer. Tell someone if you are struggling. Go to that party, say hi to that friend. Little changes make the big differences.
13. Add light to your environment
You can open your blinds, add plants to your house and ensure nothing is blocking your windows. Make your space open and fresh with light coming in from the earth each day.
14. Keep your immune system up
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!!
This is a huge one for myself and everyone that knows me. Unfortunately, winter can come with decreased immunity. To prevent this you can:
-Drink Kombucha for proper gut healing bacteria
-Take Manuka Honey for anti-bacterial properties
-Drink tea daily for it's anti-oxidant properties.
-Indulge in citrus fruits and vegetables with high amounts of Vitamin C
-Make a homemade tonic (check out my last blog post)
-Take your Vitamin D!
Now that you have gone through this entire post learning about Seasonal Affective Disorder, I hope you can learn from it. If you are experiencing the symptoms, talk to someone. Write down a few goals of how to overcome this. Everything will be okay. Summer will be here eventually.
Thank you for reading How To Flourish.