I got three words for you. Seasonal Affective Disorder. The farther away from the equator we live, the more likely we are to suffer from SAD. The American Psychiatric Association believes it has to do with bio-chemical changes in the brain due to lack of daylight, which can mess with the sleep-regulating hormone melotonin and also with the “feel good” hormone serotonin. January and February have been cited as the most difficult months.
Longer nights, bitterly cold days, gray days, snowstorms – Winter can be a drag and when I’m feeling marooned in the middle of it, it can feel like the Spring will NEVER come and I’m stuck living in a dark, gray, cold universe. This cold grayness sometimes seeps into my mind and my soul and next thing I know, I’m in a deep funk. I don’t feel like doing any of the things that bring me joy, the idea of even trying feels exhausting. All I want to do is watch Netflix all day long and snack, which of course makes me feel worse because EVERYBODY KNOWS that while this is okay once in a while, it’s not okay to do it every night after work and all weekend for weeks.
I’m in a funkadelic funk right now. Every year this happens and every year I COMPLETELY FORGET that I am susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What are the symptoms? Similar to symptoms of full-blown depression, but especially:
- Less energy
- Trouble concentrating
- Greater appetite (especially for carbohydrates)
- Increased desire to be alone
- Greater need for sleep
- Weight gain
They should add binge-watching shows on Netflix, too.
How can I give up the funk? Doctors recommend talk therapy and short-term antidepressants. I PERSONALLY don’t want to go on SSRI antidepressants, even for a short time, because I’m not chronically depressed and don’t want to mess with my brain chemistry.
I was curious about what the natural remedies and alternatives to Big Pharma would be for SAD, so I did a little research and this is what I found:
1. Let There Be Light. Get outside on sunny days, even if it’s cold. Open the shades and curtains, let the sun in your house. Sit near a window at your office, and if that’s not possible, you can always buy a SAD light to keep at your desk at work or near you at home to simulate natural sunlight.
2. Exercise. UGH, not my favorite, but studies show that those endorphins really help off-set the blahs. Not only that, it can improve your mood when you realize you’ve got arms like Michonne on the Walking Dead. Yoga is especially recommended for the mind-body benefits. Nothing works like yoga to get me out of my head and into the present moment and really connect with my body.
3. Nutrition & Supplements. It’s always a good idea to eat whole foods and avoid too much sugar, white flour, and highly processed food – which is the opposite of what I want to eat right now. However, eating well goes a long way to FEELING GOOD, and feeling good is the goal. In addition, making sure I drink plenty of fresh water, minimize caffeine, and maybe adding some Super Greens to my daily routine would help with my energy levels. Vitamin D is a must, most of us living in North America suffer from a lack of Vitamin D, but especially in winter. Dr. Joseph Mercola suggests 5,000-6,000 iu of Vitamin D daily. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests B Vitamins, Fish Oil, and natural depression remedies like St. John’s Wort (check with your doctor before using, it can affect the efficiency of several prescription medications including birth control) or SAMe.
4. Aromatherapy. Jasmine, Sandalwood or Cinnamon essential oils rubbed near the temples or crown of the head can rev up your chi. Remember to never use undiluted essential oil on the skin. Mix a few drops of your oil of choice with a good carrier oil like almond, jojoba, or fractionated coconut oil in a glass bottle (never plastic) and apply as needed. I plan on using this mixture (I mix my oils with jojoba oil – it’s the closest oil to our natural sebaceous oil, and our skin absorbs it quickly) in a bath with Himalayan salts for an indulgent yet therapeutic treat. Citrus oils are also known to be uplifting and can boost your mood. Put a little grapefruit, orange, or lemon oil on a tissue and keep it near you to inhale as needed.
5. Crystals. OF COURSE I’m going to be using crystals – primarily the orange and yellow ones. Carnelian, Citrine, Orange Calcite, and clear Quartz to magnify their energies and my own. At night I’m going to keep my grounding and “sleep” crystals on my night stand to help me fall asleep and more importantly STAY asleep: Black Tourmaline, Obsidian, Amethyst, Angelite and Lepidolite.
6. Reiki. I give myself Reiki daily, but am looking into going to a Reiki share for added OOMPH this time of year. Other things that would help are Massage, Acupuncture, Cranio-Sacral therapy: any energy healing or body work would get our Life Force unblocked and flowing. Self-care is not just a nice thing to do for ourselves, but an outward act of self-esteem which can only help when we’re down in a funky hole of misery. Even if our self-esteem is in the toilet, an outward act of self-esteem can soon become the real thing: fake it ’til ya make it. The hard part is doing it when I feel this horrible, especially when the idea of making a phone call is exhausting. However, I can spiral UP into POSITIVE actions, behaviors and feelings or I can spiral down. I’m tired of spiraling down.
7. Color therapy — I’ve got color all over my cubicle, but again, yellows and oranges are particularly effective in lifting mood. I’m going to put a bowl of oranges in the middle of my kitchen table and kill two birds with one stone. Bright sunny oranges PLUS the citrusy scent of the rind equals a one-two punch to the blues.
8. Talk it out. As much as I want to isolate and hide under my blankets until June, I know I feel better when I confide in a trusted friend that I’m feeling horrible and don’t really have a good reason to feel this way. I also belong to a 12-step group, so going to meetings are a great way to express what I’m feeling so it doesn’t fester and feed on itself. Talk therapy is always an option, as well.
I’ll be using all of these plus the one-day-at-a-time philosophy to get through this. I’m going to be very gentle with myself because beating myself up about feeling bad is only going to perpetuate the funk. For today, I feel terrible and that’s okay. I’m not alone, it looks like 10-20% of people in northern North America suffer from winter-onset SAD. If you’re one of them, there are ways to cope beyond turning off the ringer, Netflix and PopSecret.
Only 13 more days until Daylight Savings Time. Only 26 more days until Spring. We can do this! We can go from funk to FUNKYTOWN.