It's that time of year again.
The days grow shorter, the leaves begin to change, and Seasonal Affective Disorder rears its ugly head. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be the same rigamarole each year. There are simple yet effective preventative methods that you can use to ease into the season stress free. These methods include controlling your environment, making adjustments to your diet, and creating a game plan. This article covers the first step.
Preparing for Seasonal Affective Disorder - Understanding SAD
Fact: A common misconception about SAD is that the lower temperatures lead to depressed moods. Actually, the cold has little to do with depression. Instead, the problem is the lower level of sunlight we receive. Cloudier days and fewer hours of sun can contribute to a drastic sink in mood.
Symptoms: As a result of the lower levels of daylight, you may experience all or some of the following:
- increased craving for carbs, including bread and junk food
- lethargy, including feeling tired despite increased sleep
- decreased concentration
Preparing for Seasonal Affective Disorder - Controlling Your Environment
Since you will probably be resting more than usual, make your home - particularly your favorite spot - comfortable and serene. Keep your bedding or sitting area clean and the area immediately surrounding it neat. The increased fatigued can contribute to feelings of guilt. But rather than punishing yourself for your tiredness, accommodate yourself. Fluff your pillows, try to neaten your lounging area each day, and change your linens regularly. Remember, needing more rest is a symptom of SAD, not a result of your laziness or ineptitude.
Let the sunshine in. Literally, let in as much sun as you can. Open the blinds, move aside the heavy drapes, and let the sun in all day. Because the days are getting shorter, you'll need to get an early start to take advantage of the sunlight. If possible, also consider moving your bed or favorite chair right next to or directly across from a window. This will make it easier for you to sit in the sun at some point during the day. If you're unable to take advantage of the sun, consider purchasing a lightbox (aka light therapy lamp) or change the bulbs in your lamps to full spectrum bulbs. If it's feasible, set up a sitting area on a porch, balcony, or deck.
Make your environment a place you look forward to spending time in. Your favorite books, movies, or other hobbies should be easily accessible. Move your favorite poster or a beloved print to a spot where you'll actually see it. If you can, add a few air purifying plants to your space.
The next article in this series will cover the way your environment smells and sounds.
*NOTE - Although there is more than one type of SAD, in this article, I'm referring to the type also known as Winter Depression.