At this time each year, when the weather is grey and dreary with rain spells lasting days, maybe weeks on end, with no sight of sun, many of us notice that we may get slow, cranky, unmotivated and tired during the winter months, much like mammals do going into hibernation. We may experience eating and sleeping problems, weight gain, difficulties concentrating, increased anxiety and withdrawing from others, sometimes falling into a slight depression. We might feel ourselves getting sick more often than usual, noticing a weakened immune system. I know what you’re thinking, what’s going on? Well you’re not alone. The “winter blues” or seasonal depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects millions of people every year.
Since SAD is a condition consisting of recurrent depressive episodes during the fall and winter months, the symptoms normally disappear in spring, often with a short period of hyperactivity or hypomania, depending on the exposure and intensity of bright sunlight. Sub-syndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder, being the milder form of SAD usually can be overcome by increased exercise and outdoor activity, most effectively on bright, sunny days, resulting in increased solar exposure (Leppamaki, Haukka, Lonnqvist, & Partonen, 2004, p. 22). Sub-syndromal Seasonal Affective Disorder, affects more than double the percentage of the North American population at an estimated 14.3% compared to the 6.1% of SAD sufferers (Avery, Kizer, Bolte, & Hellekson, 2001, p. 267-74). It is becoming clear that an awareness of SAD is growing and an understanding that people have always been affected in some way by seasonal changes. Even in healthy individuals, connections between human mood, as well as energy levels and the seasons are well documented.
As with mammals some traces of seasonality, or behaviours relating to seasons from our ancestors still exist. For example, people often crave different foods in different seasons or lose weight or gain weight depending on the season and this clear evidence of human seasonality relates to the existence of SAD. As with many other mammals we may get slow, cranky, unmotivated and tired during the winter months much like mammals do going into hibernation. In addition, SAD is brought on by photoperiodic time changes created by shorter lengths of daylight hours (p. 2). The US National Library of Medicine notes that “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel “depressed” (2009, p.1). These symptoms usually clear up with the onset of the later spring and summer months having the longer, brighter daylight hours.
Also, another cause of SAD involves the level of serotonin, which is a mood regulating brain chemical that drops in susceptible individuals during the darker winter months. Another cause involves the body’s production of melatonin, which is a sleep inducing hormone in the body that is secreted more readily when it’s dark. The secretion of melatonin due to the lessening of bright daylight hours contributes to seasonal affective disorder (p. 2). It is also believed that shorter darker days trigger a shift in SAD patients’ circadian rhythms, which regulate the sleep-wake cycle (Consumer Reports on Health, 2005, p. 1).
If you suffer with any of these symptoms, I’m here to help. Let’s break down some common symptoms, identify the problem and suggest solutions with my recommendations.
1. Sleep Problems
Problem: The need to sleep more, a tendency to oversleep, difficulty staying awake during the day and/or disturbed sleep with very early morning wakening.
Solution: Create a bedtime routine each night that your body can rely on and look forward to. We make the mistake of going and going all day long, to coming home and expecting our brains to just shut off entirely once our head hits the pillow. It’s just not the way it works sometimes. Whether that’s taking a bath, reading a book to unwind, or diffusing some stress relieving essential oils, it’s important to power down and give yourself the chance to decompress for 20-30 minutes before catching some zzz’s.
I love to soak my tension away, removing bodily toxins through the cleansing properties of sea salt combined with lavender and roman chamomile to ease into a balanced state of emotions. Try my favourite Stress Release Tension Reducing Bath Salt Soak (620g), $19.95.
Problem: Fatigue, often incapacitating, making it very difficult or impossible to carry out normal routines.
Solution: supplementation of the melatonin hormone. This is used to realign the circadian rhythms in the body, affecting the sleep-wake phases.
3. Over Eating
Problem: Craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods leading to an increase in weight.
Solution: Sip on some hot water and lemon first thing to curb your appetite. This will also help to increase your awareness to know when you’re actually hungry as opposed to eating out of boredom.
4. Cognitive Function
Problem: Difficulty with concentration and memory. The brain does not work as well, or as quickly.
Solution: Try taking some Zen Theanine, which promotes a calm, relaxed alertness without causing drowsiness.
5. Social Problems
Problem: Irritability, finding it harder to be with people.
Solution: Positive thinking, increased socialization following a regular sleep schedule and installing brighter lights throughout the house and sitting more frequently in front of large, bright windows are all suggested recommendations.
Problem: Tension, stress is harder to deal with.
Solution: When restlessness and irritability take centre stage lavender and roman chamomile can support a natural transition back to a grounded state. With added notes of uplifting citrus this blend will promote feelings of happiness and encourage positivity. Try the Stress Release Tension Reducing Remedy by Saje Natural Wellness, $26.95.
7. Loss of Libido
Problem: Less interest in sex and physical contact
Solution: Invite the pep back into your step with this refreshing blend intended to awaken your senses as you walk away from tension and find your natural rhythm. Pair with the Stress Release Roll On behind the neck and shoulders to relax the body and soothe the mind. Try Peppermint Halo from Saje or their line of Tantra to increase your libido and find your way back to your partner.
8. Sudden Mood Changes
Problem: Sharp change in mood, some experience agitation and restlessness and/or a short period of hypomania (over activity).
Solution: When hypersensitive thoughts begin to sway out of control use the Relax-O-Ring to massage each finger, reintroducing a meditative state while stimulating reflex points and their corresponding energy zones. Saje has a fantastic massage ring that’s only $4.95!
Low mood, worse than and different from normal sadness, negative thoughts and feelings, guilt and loss of self-esteem, sometimes hopelessness and despair, sometimes apathy and inability to feel.
Solution: Bright light therapy along with medication has been considered the best option for treating SAD, says Michael Terman, Ph.D., director of the Centre for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York. However, light therapy has two advantages. People normally tolerate light therapy well and respond in four to seven days as compared to four to six weeks with antidepressant medications. Also, there are fewer side effects to using light therapy than to using medications (Consumer Reports on Health, 2005, p. 1). Bright light treatment involves using a specially designed light box that provides intense white “full spectrum” light. Light boxes have proven to be effective at doses of 2500-10,000 lux (Avery et al., 2001, p. 267), the intensity needed to suppress nocturnal melatonin (Murstein, 2002, p. 4). People are normally given 30-60 minute treatments daily depending on the severity of SAD. There is evidence that morning light is superior to evening light, although people can respond to evening light as well (www.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab004050.html).
Natalie’s Winter Blues Giveaway
Saje Natural Wellness Package valued at over $80 with everything you need to wipe away those Winter Blues!!!!
The package includes:
· Stress Release Roll On
· Peppermint Halo Roll On
· Stress Release Tension Reducing Bath Salt Soak
TO ENTER: Tell us what you look forward to when the sun is shining in the comments below for your chance to WIN! Please note JRfm’s Rules and Regulations: http://www.jrfm.com/contestrules/
Contest is now closed congratulations to Jessica!!
Just remember, happy vibes, happy lives!! Get outside and give yourself a little love today!!!
**Contest Rules & Regulations**
The winner agrees to abide by the rules and regulations outlined here http://www.jrfm.com/contestrules/ for pick up at #300-1401 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver, BC, V6H 1C9. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 5pm.
All prizes must be claimed within 60 days at the offices of CJJR-FM and are non-transferable. After 60 days, prize becomes the property of CJJR-FM, to do with as it may determine, including awarding it to another contestant, and CJJR-FM shall be released and discharged from any liability or responsibility in this regard.
Only ONE member of the household will be eligible to qualify or win in any single Contest.
By entering the Contest, all persons are deemed to have read and to have accepted these rules and regulations.