Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder
Right about this time of the year, many of us experience a shift in mood, which often leaves us looking at our reflection in the mirror, trying to determine why exactly we are feeling blue? You may not equate your feelings with the winter weather. However, it turns out there is a scientific link to “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health problem that affects a large percentage of the population. It can
affect you temporarily and then slip into remission during the spring, never to appear again. It could be reoccurring, year after year and can also intensify depression in individuals that are already suffering from various mental health disorders. SAD tends to be triggered when there is a decrease in the amount of a persons’ exposure to direct sunlight for long periods. The reduction in sunlight may upset a person's’ sleep-wake patterns and the function of certain neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine), which play a role in mood. Women are more likely to suffer from SAD, as well as your distance from the equator (farther north or south). Younger people may experience more symptoms of SAD, but the risk does decrease with age. A family history of SAD and forms of depression also put you at risk. The list of symptoms for SAD mimics the signs for depression, which can confuse health care providers into prescribing meds for long term depression rather than a seasonal episode. Watch for your blue mood to last all day and for more than two weeks in a row. Do the feelings of sadness affect your performance and relationships, at home, work, or school? Pay attention to changes in appetite and weight, sleep problems, withdrawal from family, friends, hobbies, etc. Periods of agitation, irritability, fatigue, anger, crying and loss of concentration.
The Natural Take on SAD
There is a real health issue taking place with individuals suffering from SAD. Working with your health care professional to find the best balance for you may be the best path to take. However, if mental illness is not the root cause of the exacerbated condition, consider a natural health approach to healing the mind. Start with a Vitamin D supplement; Mega Foods has both a plant version of Vitamin D and a new yummy gummy Vitamin D version. Studies have shown that individuals suffering from various forms of depression are low in vitamin D. Melatonin can help to regulate your internal clock (circadian
rhythm), which is in turmoil during the darker days of winter. Increase or start taking a B complex (Mega foods does have a plant-based version). B vitamins help to stabilize your entire central nervous system and when under stress your body tends to utilize whatever your body has, leaving you deficient. Vitamin C is also depleted in times of stress. St John’s Wort is an herbal supplement that is still used in Europe today as a natural alternative to anti-depressants, following the same pathways of healing the brain (serotonin) as when prescribed meds such as Prozac. Do to the metabolic action of St John Wort; it cannot be taken if you are already using prescribed medications for depression. It can take up to 4 weeks of regular use of St John’s Wort before you see results, so it best to take before winter begins. Alternatively, you can try SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). This supplement works more quickly than St John’s wort but does have the same potential side effects. Consider “Light Therapy” which is exposure to bright artificial light via a “lightbox” a few times throughout the day. Depression, no matter the type, can feel incredibly isolating. Reaching out to friends and family and establishing a support network can help ease the burden.
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