It Is That Time of Year... Seasonal Affective Disorder. Homework for the Hounded.
Who Is Afraid of the Dark?
Not me! Well not the dark, per se, just too much of it. Gotta have my sunlight!
More Than the Winter Blues
I have made more poor life decisions in the month of November than any other month. I am prone to abruptly leaving a job, ending a relationship or alienating people close to me. I am a little slow, so it took me years to connect the calendar with my behavior.
As the days get shorter and sunlight gets more scarce, many people in the United States are prone to a mood spectrum from the "winter blues" to severe depression. Some of us have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, experience nausea and headaches and overall lack of energy. Bipolars (me) are especially at risk.
Geography plays an important part. According to Wikipedia, the state that has the highest percentage of its population affected is New Hampshire while Florida has the least. This make sense since the sunlight is more precious the further north one lives. Some Nordic countries see over 50% of their people suffer.
The Good News
There are ways of fighting and minimizing the affects of this disorder. Over the past fifty years I have drawn on the experts and my own experience in doing my best to avoid a major shutdown in the winter. So guess what. I have decided to share some of these with you.
Life Is Made of Faith and Trust and Pixie Dust— Peter Pan
The more despair you feel, the more difficult it is for your mind to call up your coping mechanisms. If you have made appointments with yourself, committed to a routine, it is a little easier to stay on top of your game and on top of your mood.
Make an appointment with Sunlight. I worked retail for a while with no windows in view. I would often leave home in the dark and leave work in the dark. I had to purposely find time to soak up some sun. I committed to going outside for lunch. I went to parks or sat on my porch during days off. It was not easy, but I had to get all of the light I could get.
Make an appointment with Exercise. Commit to daily walk. Go to the gym. Play with the dog. Join a bowling league. Break out your old Jane Fonda Tapes. Do whatever it takes. BTW, our pets can suffer during the winter, too. My dog always gains weight in from November to March, so getting them out with a walk can help you both.
Make an appointment with Laughter. Laughter not only boosts your mood, but boosts your heart rate. One researcher, William Fry, says that one minute of laughter is equal to ten minutes on a rowing machine. Laughter also effects blood flow, the immune system and helps us sleep. So make an appointment to watch those Barney Miller reruns, The Big Bang Theory or The Three Stooges. Laughter really is the best medicine, sometimes.
If you know that you are susceptible to SAD, be prepared for it. There are things that you can do in the Fall that may just keep you falling into the dungeon of gloom.
Surround Yourself With Color. Red, orange, yellow and green bring energy, joy and happiness. Other colors bring a sense of calm and serenity. Surround yourself with the mood colors you know you will need in times of depression. If possible decorate not just your home, but your car and office desk.
Be Able to See Life. Winter is not only a time of darkness, but of hibernation and less life activity in nature. The trees are bare, the grass is brown. This can make us feel lifeless, too. Fish tanks, green plants and even hamsters and turtles can make that life more present for while we wait for the blooming of Spring.
Tell Friends and Family. I know for me, that extra phone call or text can be a life lifter. Let people know that you often have trouble at this time of year. They can also keep you accountable to your plan and look out for signs of trouble. Often people around us notice our mood changes before we do.
Talk to Your Doctor. If you are already on anti-depressants, sometimes your doctor will want to temporarily increase your dosage for the winter months. He or she may have other options to help with your depression.
Dr. Oz Says...
Peppermint Oil helps with sadness and depression. It also gives a quick energy boost, so you might try putting on a dab or taking a few whiffs.
Fluorescent Light is very bright and can change the melatonin in your brain.
Chili Peppers boosts energy and enhances circulation. Can be a quick pick me up snack.
Gingko Biloba helps with awareness and concentration.
This is the time that I wear my red socks and my duck sun visor. It is difficult to be blue when I break out in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road while sitting in my cubicle surrounded by dozens of other blah tan four foot walls. Have pie for dinner. Shock your kids by doing a line dance in the living room. Jump in the pile of leaves. Do whatever it takes.
May You Live Every Day of Your Life— Jonathon Swift