Our Canadian winters begin from the moment we put into effect daylight savings time in late October and can last until mid April. Our winters are long, dark, cold and for many Canadians this just brings about the feeling of fatigue, sadness and depression. During this time, thousands of Canadians are seriously affected by seasonal affective disorder or SAD. The symptoms that make up SAD include irritation, decreased sex drive, over eating, sadness, depression and a loss of interest for life. Collectively these symptoms give you what we call the “Winter Blahs”, there is a significant marked change in personality. The moment spring comes, they feel like themselves again.
Until the 1980s, people suffering from SAD had no idea what was wrong with them. The name seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has since been added to the primary diagnostic manual for mental health conditions. It is important to note that SAD has varying degrees, some feel mildly depressed while others can be hospitalized for serious depression. A natural approach to treating SAD includes light therapy, dietary changes, nutrients, supplements, exercise and some other innovative holistic ways to deal with SAD.
1. Get Some Light, Go On a Vacation
There are some very fancy light therapy machines that you can set up in your bedroom to simulate sun and stimulate happiness. While light therapy is effective; why not book a vacation to a sunny destination to break up your 8 month winter hibernation? A vacation will get you to an exotic destination, show you something new and interesting, and expose you to some fun and sun. In fact, most people feel better in the summer, when the days are longer, sunnier, and warmer and whenwe get out more, exercise harder, and eat less.
2. Get Some Exercise, Start Those Endorphins.
Make any regular aerobic exercise part of your daily program. We know for sure that exercise helps people with SAD; the evidence suggests that it stimulates the endocrine and nervous systems. Exercise releases many wonderful feel good endorphins that have the ability to change your internal chemistry and make you feel over all really good. Exercise both outdoors and indoors in the early morning hours. Exercising early in the morning is a great way to start your day. Try walking, jogging, biking or swimming. When you decide to exercise, try to do it in the sun or near a sunny window.
3. Watch What You Eat, Add Some Supplementation.
When we are in hibernation mode we tend to reach for our comforting carbohydrates. Carbohydrate cravings are common in people with SAD, and the connection is thought to be caused by decreased levels of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and a healthy protein selection are key to maintaining a healthy brain chemistry. Staying clear of the carbohydrate trap is super important if you want to improve your chances of avoiding SAD. We also recommend the following vitamin supplementation be part of your protocol: a B complex, the amino acid theanine, tryptophan, glutamine, an adrenal support, melatonin, zinc, selenium, vitamin C, the herb rhodiola and ashwaghanda.
Few people look forward to the long dreary nights of winter. In fact, most people feel better in the summer, when the temperatures are warmer, the days are longer, and the fun more frequent. If you find you feel lousy this time of the year, try implementing some of these easy ideas and see how they make you feel. I have a suggestion, why not book that last minute vacation to Aruba today!
Dr Elias Markou, ND