Seasonal Affective Disorder
Do you or someone you know get the wintertime and fall “blues”? In Vermont, we do not get much daylight and sunlight to begin with, and upcoming long winters can bring down moods to quite a few. Lack of vitamin D and just less sunlight in the winter, coupled with more time indoors, can trigger what is known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder” in many people. SAD can prove to be a severe form of depression and reduce the quality of life for those with the disorder. Winter sports can help but so massage therapy and other activities that increase mood and endorphins.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is recognized as a major depressive disorder with seasonal patterns. A less severe seasonal mood disorder, known as the winter blues, impacts an even more significant portion of the population. Combining the two conditions affects as many as one in five Americans and may be aggravated by Daylight Savings Time.
Most commonly affected are females between 15 and 55, have family members who deal with SAD, are clinically depressed, suffer from bipolar disorder, and live far from the equator. The age range is young because studies have shown that SAD decreases as you age. The most common ages are between 18 and 30.
Massage Can Help with SAD
One of the many therapies that can help SAD is massage. A recent American Massage Therapy Association article catalogs several proven ways massage therapy can counteract physiological mood factors that often accompany SAD. According to the AMTA, massage can:
- Reduce anxiety and depression with a course of care providing benefits similar in magnitude to those of psychotherapy.
- Increase neurotransmitters associated with lowering anxiety and decrease hormones associated with increased stress.
- Significantly decreased heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.
- Improve mental health by reducing depression in individuals with HIV, lessen anxiety in cancer patients, reduce anxiety and depression in military veterans, and lower work-related stress for nurses.
“As we approach the colder, darker months, massage therapy may be an effective method of deflecting common seasonal challenges,” said Jeff Smoot, 2015 President of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). “Massage benefits the way our bodies react to negative influences, whether that’s weather, anxieties or disorders.”
Ten ways to fight SAD (or any depression too!):
Opening blinds, removing branches that block sunlight, and sitting closer to bright windows can all help improve Seasonal Affective Disorder and your mood.
2. Going Outside
Despite the cold temperature, spending time outside can help alleviate the effects of SAD. Taking a walk within the first two hours of getting up is a great way to get fresh air and light, even if it’s cloudy. Natural light is much more potent than artificial light.
3. Spending Time with Friends and Family
Reconnecting with old friends, taking a new class, or joining a support group can help alleviate Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms. Catching up with friends, or making new ones, will help you feel less alone during the winter months. A support group can help you find other ways to feel better during the winter.
4. Sticking to a Schedule
Staying in a routine will help your body get more sleep. This way, you can also plan to get scheduled amounts of sunlight every day. Eating at standard times will also help you manage a diet or watch your winter weight. Sleep not too little but not too much. Sleeping too much will make you dizzy, and sleeping not enough can make you more depressed.
5. Eating Wisely
Sweets and simple carbs, like white bread and white rice, all can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin and then send you spiraling down when it’s all used up. Bright-colored veggies, fruits, and beans are better carbs to help deal with SAD. They are absorbed by your body slowly, which gets rid of the peaks and valleys of other foods. During the winter, foods to have on hand include popcorn, oatmeal, nuts, egg whites, peanut butter, vegetables, fruits, whole-grain crackers and bread, deli turkey, and cottage cheese.
Physical activity reduces stress and anxiety, both of which can make SAD worse. Getting in shape can also help with self-esteem, which can put you in a happier mood.
Volunteering can make you feel like you have a purpose. It’s also a great way to meet people and make a difference in your community or religious organization. Helping out those who are less fortunate might help put things into perspective.
8. Avoiding Alcohol
Alcohol is a depressant, and as such, can harm your brain. Drinking too much can lead to bad decisions, which may make you feel even worse later. Always consume alcohol in moderation.
9. Know When SAD is More Than Seasonal
If your feelings of depression last more than one season, it might be time to talk to your doctor.
10. Mind and Body Therapy
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