Seasonal Affective Disorder
The winter blues can roll in like a heavy fog, silent and overwhelming. “Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Sometimes the feelings associated with this are actually a low level form of depression”. This condition is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder” or SAD.
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 winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. It comes when we lack sunlight. As humans we were not created for darkness but for light. Humans desire sunlight and we need it physical, psychologically and spiritually.
Here are some common symptoms:
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
It is a form of depression that is very low on the spectrum. If a person begins to feel hopeless about their life, that life has no meaning, and becomes very “teary” in a more than usual way, they may need to see a clinician. However for SAD, there are things that people can do to lessen the affects. Here are 9 for you to consider.
- Make sure you’re taking vitamin D: Find a high quality brand. You can look on the label for the word, “gamma.” Vitamin D3 is plant based. Don’t skip our vitamin D in the winter. It’s what sunlight gives us. If you are under the age of 70 you should take 600 IU’s (international units) a day. Over 70 is 800.
- Up your Omega-3 intake: Omega 3 (fish oils) help maintain healthy levels of the brain chemicals called dopamine and serotonin which are the “feel good” neurotransmitters in our brains. We get low on those when our mood is low. Walnuts are also a good source of Omega-3.
- Get some exercise: Exercise not only improves our mood but it also reduces anxiety and stress, both of which worsen depression. Take a brisk walk outside, walk on a treadmill, do whatever works for you.
- Purchas a sun lamp: Many people swear by light therapy. (phototherapy) Basically you regularly sit in front of a special light box that emits full-spectrum light similar in composition to sunlight. It’s been proven very effective for people with SAD.
- Go outside even if it’s cloudy: Exposure to outside light is still important so try to get outside daily for at least 10 minutes. It may be cloudy, but light still pokes through and tickles your brain through your beautiful eyes. This also increases the dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain.
- Leave the house: Even if you just run some errands, relax at the library, join a Bible study, have lunch with a friend, or visit a person who needs encouragement, you are shaking up the routine and that helps your mind and soul!
- Drink green and eat green: Green juices, smoothies and salads can be less appealing when all you want is a cup of hot chocolate…but we tend to not eat as many veggies in the winter months. They promote circulation which helps your brain.
- Sleep: Create and stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Try to get your 8 hours but don’t oversleep either. Some ways of practicing good sleep hygiene by having a cool room, covering or removing electronic gadgets that emit light (this messes with our pineal gland and melatonin levels) and staying away from caffeine after lunchtime. It stays in our bodies a long time.
- Turn to the true source of LIGHT: We were made to live in the LIGHT! We are children of the LIGHT. We need spiritual lights to satisfy us the most. We cannot change the weather conditions in the Midwest, but we can change our spiritual condition. Having a dose of God’s love and light is the best thing to cure the winter blues.
- I Thess. 5:5 “For you are all children of the light and of the day, we don’t belong to the darkness and to the night.”
- God’s children do not belong to the darkness, but we must co-exist with the darkness while we are here on earth. There are days when despite our close walk with the Lord darkness seems to invade our lives. There are days when it takes all our strength just to find His Light. For people with SAD, it is medically treated with prolonged exposure to intense light. Could it be that as Christians there are times when we need prolonged exposure to the Light of the world? There are times when a quick devotional and 3 prayers at mealtime are just not enough. As darkness feels like it is pervading our body, soul and spirit, it becomes clear that we need Jesus to make it through the night of the soul.
- When the shadows fall, build worship of the Lord into your daily life. Jesus is there for those who seek Him and He lifts us when we lift our gratitude and praise to Him. He is covered in LIGHT. It is His Glory. Make a home in His radiance and focus on the LIGHT of His presence. With His light and love we can survive any kind of darkness here on the earth. The Kingdom of God is our true home and it is always light there.
- Seek the Lord through His word. The Bible has a great deal to say about light. Find the word light in a concordance and do a word study on it. God’s words are sure to bring light to the winter of your spirit and your soul.