Monday, October 29, 2012

3 Tips to Avoid Feeling SAD This Winter

Seasonal affective disorder can lead to weight gain, difficulty waking and lower energy levels.

Couple running outdoors through autumn leaves.
Exercising outdoors can help you avoid feeling SAD in winter.

As the days get shorter, signaling the encroaching winter, people of the great Northwest are preparing for the gray and rain of the season. Is your mood strongly affected during this time?

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression typically occurring during winter months. Anyone can be affected by SAD, however, women are more likely to be affected than men. Symptoms commonly experienced include increased weight gain, difficulty waking after sleep, lower energy levels and inability to concentrate. The usual presentation in patients also includes feelings of hopelessness, social withdrawal, unhappiness and irritability.

The following are three tips that can help you avoid feeling SAD this winter:

  • Exercise! Even in the rain, getting outside for movement of the body and breathing fresh air is exceptionally revitalizing. People participating in group or team activities get the added benefit that is derived from social interaction.
  • Consider light-box therapy. Lamps that can deliver a minimum of 10,000 lux have been studied and found helpful for some people. The light should be used at first awakening for 20 to 30 minutes. The position of the light should be above your head to mimic sun rays shining down. Light-box therapy should be used for at least three to four weeks before re-evaluation of a person’s symptoms.
  • Make an appointment at Bastyr Center for Natural Health or your primary care provider. Other problems can appear similar to SAD, so it’s important to have a medical professional examine you.

Don’t wait until the winter’s darkness gets you down. Practice preventive medicine early and you may not have to experience another “winter blues.”

— Justin Steurich, ND, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

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