Winter Blues

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“Does the rain have you feeling down?”

 According to the Sacramento Bee, “The Northern Sierra Nevada, a region critical to statewide water supplies, experienced its third driest December since record keeping began in 1920.” While Californians recognize this year’s dry winter season, many can’t help but to mourn the sights of the much needed recent showers.

 How many of you find the weather getting to you at this time of year? Generally I love the winter weather, but endless gray skies begin to get to my usually sunny nature.

 SAD (seasonal affective disorder) affects many people. People become more tired, cranky, moody and unhappy than usual due to the lack of sun in their lives. Symptoms of SAD include sleepiness, depression, overeating and carbohydrate cravings, lack of sociability, loss of libido, and mood changes. It is natural for most people to have some of these symptoms in winter, being that we respond to nature. The diagnosis of SAD occurs when the depression becomes so severe that a person has a hard time functioning.

 SAD is due to the lack of sunlight during the day and even though we are having an unusually sunny winter, it is also the length of daylight hours that affect our mood. Many people – 85 percent – respond to treatment of SAD using a light box. The duration of recommended usage per day varies depending on the strength of light from the box. A 10,000 lux box available for $169 only needs to be used a half-hour per day, whereas a 2,500 lux box requires four hours of exposure. It should be used daily and is usually effective within 3-4 days. You can sit in front of it and do any normal activity such as reading or writing or working at your desk.

 There are other treatments for SAD. One of the best mood elevators is doing fun things with your favorite people. In addition, exercising keeps your energy up and increases circulating endorphins that are good for the mood. In terms of nutrition, a low carbohydrate diet helps the blood sugar remain steady, preventing ups and downs.

 People who get severely depressed sometimes need antidepressants to get them through the season. If that is the case, it is best to begin medications in the autumn before symptoms get really bad. Drugs like Prozac, Wellbutrin, and Effexor tend to help people be more alert and active.

 If you are against using these kinds of medications there are many herbs and supplements that can help support the mood. If you have a doctor who understands how to use herbs, you can get a supplement that is personalized to your particular symptoms. 5 HTP, SAM-e, St John’s Wort, Shizandra and B-vitamins are among just a few. An Ayurvedic herb called “holy basil” is remarkably effective at calming the adrenal glands and anxiety without a drug effect.

 Winter is a wonderful time to focus on your inner self and do things that you wouldn’t do at other times of the year. Invest in your happiness and take time to do things that you love this season. Or, if you feel so inclined, just hibernate!

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