We are well into fall now and winter is on the way. The holidays are getting closer and the stress is increasing. As if we don"t have enough to think about already, we find ourselves getting cranky and depressed. Animals react to the changing seasons with changes in mood and behaviour and human beings are no exception. Most people find they eat and sleep a little more in the winter and dislike the dark mornings and short days. But for an estimated 25% of the population, symptoms are severe enough to disrupt their lives and to cause considerable distress. These people are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Young adults and women are at highest risk for this disorder. Women are four times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than men.|
Symptoms may include depression occurring regularly during the fall or winter months, changes in eating and sleeping habits, cravings for carbohydrates (leading to weight gain), a persistent sadness, emptiness or anxiousness, loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed, more difficulty dealing with daily stress, less energy and memory, concentration, or motivation difficulties.
"While many of us have these symptoms during the long, winter months, SAD sufferers feel this way for days or weeks at a stretch," says Chun C. Tsai, M.D. of Family Service & Mental Health Center of Oak Park & River Forest. "These symptoms may indicate a diagnosis of SAD if they tend to reoccur each winter and cannot be connected with other factors, such as annual winter unemployment."
Although scientists are still learning more about the disorder, SAD is believed to be caused by the lack of bright light during the fall and winter seasons which has an affect on the brain"s chemistry. Researchers believe that during the winter months, when the days are shorter and darker, there is an increase in the production of the hormone melatonin, a brain chemical that regulates the body"s sleep cycle. Too much melatonin disturbs a person"s "biological clock", adding to the depressive state.
Also, lack of sunlight inhibits the production of an important mood regulator called seratonin. When the body doesn"t release enough seratonin, depressive symptoms may occur.
Research has shown that light therapy (phototherapy) is an effective treatment for SAD. Using light therapy seems to trick the body into thinking it"s not winter anymore, increasing the body"s production of seratonin while decreasing the amount of melatonin produced. This therapy seems to be most effective if done in the morning. Be sure to consult a physician before starting light therapy.
Approximately 60 to 80 percent of individuals with SAD improve with exposure to 30 minutes of bright, artificial light each day. The therapy requires you to sit a few feet away from a full-spectrum fluorescent light, which is approximately 12 times brighter than average room light. Phototherapy must be continued throughout the winter months, otherwise you may relapse after a few days when it is stopped. The only side effects are occasional eyestrain and headaches.
There are many other things you can do to help ease the symptoms as well. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Exercise on a regular basis, preferably outdoors, or if you must be indoors exercise near a window or bright light. Get as much natural light as possible, which may include allowing the light to shine through your windows and doors, sitting in front of a window facing south for short frequent periods during the day and sitting near all windows as often as possible.
Install brighter light bulbs throughout your home.
Maintain the same daily pattern of waking up and going to sleep times.
Dress to conserve energy and warmth.
Conserve energy by managing time wisely and avoiding or minimizing stress. Keep life as simple as you can.
When possible, postpone making life changing decisions until spring or summer.
If possible, arrange a winter vacation to a warm and sunny climate.
Talk with a trusted health care professional if you suspect you may have SAD.
Getting diagnosed is key and treatment is available so there is no reason to endure this disorder any longer. Taking action now will ensure that you are feeling much better for the busy holiday season ahead.
Copyright 2005, It"s My Nature
Author Bio :
Susan Stewart is co-founder and partner of It's My Nature, a home based Aromatherapy business in Florence, Oregon. Providing dried herbs, essential oils and many unique products. Catering to the beginner with small sizes, recipes and an informative monthly newsletter. See It's My Nature's large, informative website at http://itsmynature.net or a catalog is available by calling 1-888-445-5051.
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