I live in Philadelphia, and we are lucky enough to experience all four seasons. Now that fall weather is really here, we turned the clocks back, and the days are getting shorter…well, it feels like my body is telling me that it’s time to hibernate!
I feel tired for most of the day, and getting out of bed is no easy feat. I want to eat bread and chocolate and all kinds of junk food carbohydrates. My two cups of coffee do very little to get me moving, and by 5 pm I’m yawning and feel like getting ready for bed! And did I mention the foggy brain and lack of motivation? You get the picture. (As I write this, I’m wondering where I left that last piece of chocolate…)
Did you ever feel this way? I’ve experienced enough seasons to see the pattern and recognize the symptoms. When seasonal changes affect you on a regular schedule, and you don’t feel like yourself, you’ve just entered the Seasonal Affective Disorder zone!
Also known as SAD for short, Seasonal Affective Disorder has been researched and understood to be part of the clinical depression spectrum. Yes, it’s a real illness, and, no, you aren’t imagining it.
A friend of mine recently recommended a book called Winter Blues by Dr. Norman Rosenthal. This book has simply tons of information about SAD, how it’s been researched, examples of real case studies, and that various ways people can treat it.
Most people respond to light therapy, where you sit in front of a light for a few minutes a day. The lights are specially designed to mimic natural daylight, and can give you the dose of sunshine you’ve been missing during the winter. Note: there are specific lights and ways to do this, so do your research.
Psychiatrists believe light therapy is effective because the amount of light we receive each day affects our body’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is a naturally occurring substance in our bodies that regulates sleep. The theory is that light therapy slows down melatonin production, so you don’t feel like sleeping all day long. Sounds pretty good to me!
Some people need more than just light therapy, and can benefit from a compliment of antidepressants and talk therapy. If you see yourself in my ‘hibernation’ description, it’s worth talking to your doctor.
Interestingly, some people are affected in the opposite way, meaning they get depressed when it’s hot and sunny! I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone with that experience, but the research shows it exists. The brain in an amazing and complex organ to say the least.
Go pick up a copy of Winter Blues on amazon or at the library. There really is help to beat the winter blues!