February 16, 2014

12 Tips for Seasonal Affective Disorder

According to the Wikipedia,  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects up to 9.7% of Americans. Also known as the Winter Blues, I have managed this personally for the last 33 years by a combination of the following:

1. St. John's Wort - While does not make me euphoric by any means, gives me an even keel. I find it most effective taking it at least one month before my regular symptoms appear in February.

2. Sleep - Hibernation is my friend. I sleep anywhere from 9 to 12 hours plus take naps during the winter time. Way better than checking out on drugs, alcohol or any other escape mechanism. Plus, I look so young with all that beauty rest!

3. Sunshine - There is a reason why I live in California. However, I remember when I was a kid living rainy, cold Luxembourg my parents buying a tanning lamp to give all of us a seasonal boost.

4. Vitamin D - Of course is naturally produced by being in the sun, but what with global warming and polar vortex conditions, consider supplementing your regime. Vitamin C is also our friend, boosting immunity.

5. Aromatherapy - Orange, bergamot, and lemon all uplift the spirits. Combine with a carrier oil and use as either a room spray or body spray. Check for allergies first!

6. Stop drinking alcohol - Quite simply it is a depressant. Again, like taking herbs, I find it most effective if I stop drinking one month before I usually experience my winter blues.

7. Wear bright colors - I find myself reaching into the closet for the grey and black clothing, reflecting my inner landscape. Deliberately choosing to wear purples, reds, yellows, and other bright colors helps me "fake it until I make it."

8. Orgasm - I went to a workshop on tantra and what I remember the most is to engage in self pleasure, even if you do not feel like it. The hormones and neuro-transmitters released are the same for happiness and feeling in love. Apparently sex is better than valium!

9. Reiki/Massage - Intrinsic touch is crucial to human happiness, especially if you are single or choose not to engage in tip number 8.

10. Smile/Laugh - another "fake it till you make it" technique, I schedule a lot of lunches with colleagues and make an effort to hang out with my friends more, as being isolated simply leads to that spiral of depression. Watch funny movies/tv shows/internet sites, avoid the news/radio/facebook, be super selective.

11. Hypnosis /Meditate - I have discussed this before in my post "Meditate, Don't Medicate". Taking the time to set your intentions, experiencing deep relaxation, letting go of stress and simply allowing yourself to be present are soothing, healing and comforting. Check out my YouTube video "A Simple Self Hypnosis Technique" for more information.

12. Exercise - another way to release those feel good endorphins, a twenty minute walk can do wonders for your mood. On rainy days I do the "Just Dance" program on the Wii. Shake it up!

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 15, a label I have struggled with ever since. In the last couple of decades I have boiled it down from year around symptoms to the month of February, mostly the last two weeks. The first of March has become to signify the beginning of Spring, not just on the earth but truly the rebirth of my psyche. Rather than resisting the dark of winter, I have created a way to move through. Much like knowing it is inevitable that I will get a cold or the flu, I strive to bolster my immune systems - physical and emotional. I accept this time much like accepting being premenstrual, however, I know there are ways to alleviate the symptoms and create better mental health.

Please note: This is not meant to be a substitute for any medical or therapeutic advice. Do what is best for you, but please, create a support system for your self. You deserve a healthy happy life and can manage your emotions without having them manage you!