By: Leticia Reynolds, TCM
Are you having a hard time feeling motivated? Do you feel a change in your mental and physical well-being from daylight savings time from the fall season until the spring season? You may be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
Although the sounds and smells of rainfall can be relaxing, the lack of sunshine can affect your mood. In the state of Kentucky, our commonwealth is no stranger to a variety of temperatures throughout the year. In nearly three months, we have had devastating tornadoes, heavy snowfall, and fridge temperatures from an ice storm.
As sunlight decreases during the short dark days of winter, many individuals struggle with SAD. As the acronym so aptly illustrates, those afflicted experience feelings of sadness and loss of energy, especially during December, January, and February, around the winter solstice, when the days are shortest. Existing research has focused on the key treatment approaches of antidepressant medication, light therapy, Vitamin D, and counseling ( Melrose).
If you are just now connecting the dots, take action and prepare for next winter to help mitigate “winter blues”. There are a variety of light boxes ranging in price and potency. Commercial stores such as Walmart carry a basic lightbox located in the pharmacy section for about $30. Also, larger companies that specialize in larger light boxes, such as Sperti who has clinical research behind their product’s effectiveness, for around $500.
You can also download an app on your phone called D-minder that will give you a specific assessment based on your skin type, and geographical location to assess how much Vitamin D you will acquire outside with the least-risk-of burning. As always discuss any changes with your healthcare provider, or therapist as you are implementing strategies to assist with seasonal affective disorder.
Sunlight plays a critical role in decreased serotonin activity, increased melatonin production, disrupted circadian rhythms, and low levels of Vitamin D associated with symptoms of SAD. Antidepressant medications offer some relief. However, light therapy, Vitamin D supplements, and counseling approaches are also emerging as effective treatments ( Melrose).
A starting point to help your circadian rhythm would be waking up with the sunrise and being by a window or going outside for a few minutes to expose yourself to natural sunlight. When the sun sets, be mindful to wind down the use of electronics, and/or use blue-blocking glasses. Our highly trained therapist can assess you for SAD and start a treatment plan for you in conjunction with your healthcare provider etc.
Studies have shown that getting outside, especially as spring is approaching can have many positive benefits on your mood, relationships, workplace, and wellbeing. One explanation for the link between natural elements exposure and improved mental health involves mechanisms that reduce mental fatigue. Lastly, consuming a well-balanced diet and foods rich in Vitamin D can also be an asset to SAD.
Spring is right around the corner, the perfect time to get out there and start the journey towards better mental wellness. Start by trying some of the tips listed in this blog and then let us know about it. Need help? We are here. There is no waiting list. Have Counseling and Case Management services started within days of your initial call. Give us a call at 606-676-0638 and #LetsGrowTogether.
Leticia Reynolds, BS is a TCM with Intrust Healthcare. She has a Bachelor’s from the University of Kentucky in Community and Leadership Development, with an emphasis in agricultural communications and journalism. She has a special interest in maternal mental health, community support for families, and support groups. She enjoys spending time with her family, going on adventures, exploring nature, and learning/reading.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches
Depress Res Treat. 2015; 2015: 178564. Published online 2015 Nov 25. doi: 10.1155/2015/178564
Why We Need More Nature at Work: Effects of Natural Elements and Sunlight on Employee Mental Health and Work Attitudes
Mihyang An, Stephen M. Colarelli, Kimberly O’Brien, Melanie E. Boyajian
PLoS One. 2016; 11(5): e0155614. Published online 2016 May 23. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155614