December is National Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Awareness Month. Approximately 6% of Americans are affected by SAD which is a type of recurring depression lasting varying times usually from November through February. SAD has many symptoms and the most common are: difficulty concentrating; low energy and fatigue; and reduced interest in daily activities, especially social activities. If you think you suffer from SAD don’t blow it off, see your doctor to determine diagnosis and treatment.
Experiencing SAD is frustrating and it is hard to be motivated to exercise. However, studies show that exercise is one way to help you endure the symptoms of SAD. Any amount of exercise can improve your mood and boost your energy. Exercise can include everyday actions such as gardening, shoveling snow, or cleaning your house. The amount and type of exercise doesn’t matter as long as you get up and get moving.
Here are some points to consider about the benefits of exercise and its affect on SAD.
•Exercise releases brain chemicals that may help relieve depression.
•Exercise can help you gain confidence, which is important when you set your exercise goals.
•Exercise keeps your mind occupied and provides relief of negative, agitating thoughts.
•Exercise increases your social contact. This is very important as people with SAD often struggle to leave their homes.
•Exercising is a healthy and positive way to manage your depression and anxiety.
Here is some advice on maintaining an exercise program, throughout your depression.
•Determine what activity you enjoy doing. The key here is to choose something you know you enjoy so you will be able to stick with it. Think about some past activities you’ve enjoyed such as, taking a walk, riding your bike, or jogging.
•Set obtainable goals. Consider your abilities and needs. Don’t build a workout pyramid; you are more likely to stick with it if it is simple. Set one small exercise goal that you feel you can achieve even when you’re depressed. You can build from there.
•Studies show that you may experience significant relief from depression by exercising 30 plus minutes a day, for 3-5 days per week. You can work your way up gradually.
•Choose an exercise that is convenient. Think of things that will make it easier for you to get going. Maybe there is a class or gym close to your house, or near your work. Look for an activity that doesn’t involve a lot of equipment or cost a lot of money.
•Join a gym. Ask for a fitness assessment and hire a personal trainer. Your trainer can design an exercise program suited especially for you which will guide you in achieving your goals.
•Join a group fitness class. Try something like Zumba, yoga, Pilates, or any variety of exercise classes. These can be fun and maybe put a smile on your face. Group classes are also important because of the social interaction. It is common for people suffering from SAD to have a hard time leaving their homes.
•Try a seasonal sport. Depending on where you live most winter sports usually involve snow. You can try skiing, cross-country skiing, snow-boarding, or snow shoeing. Exercising outdoors gives the added benefit of sunlight which is beneficial in relieving SAD symptoms.
•If you are still having trouble leaving your home then try home workout equipment or workout DVDs. Do a little research and decide on something you think you will enjoy. Some things to try are dumbbells, bands, stability ball, and foam rollers; or maybe go larger and get a treadmill or recumbent bike. Find friend that would like to workout at home with you. You can share DVDs and equipment.
•Find a workout partner will help get you moving. Ask your partner to call you and remind you that you are going to workout in an hour. Set a regular appointment with your partner that you don't allow yourself to break.
•Exercise is not a burden. Make it part of your daily activities and look at it just as you do taking your medications or going to therapy. It’s just another part of the process to make you feel better.
•Be prepared for setbacks. There will be days when you just can’t do it. If you miss a day then start back the next. Don’t let it discourage you so much that you quit.
Having a mental health toolbox filled with exercise tips will set you on a healing path.
Always check with a medical professional before beginning any exercise routine. Be healthy, be happy!
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