I want to preface this post by saying that I am NOT a licensed professional and am NOT trying to diagnose or treat SAD. These are just my thoughts, opinions and observations about this. Furthermore, I have not been clinically diagnosed with SAD, these are just my observations on my own feelings.
Cold, grey, dreary. Yes, those words can be used to describe the winter weather here in the midwest. But it’s also how I sometimes feel during the winter, and who wants to feel like that for at least 3 (most likely more) months out of the year?
When I first heard about SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder in my freshman Psychology class, I didn’t really think that much about it. Sure, most people get the winter blues, but it isn’t anything too serious. I quickly put it out of my mind and moved on. Fast forward about five years to this winter. I could just NOT shake my case of the “winter blues” as I called them. I was tired all the time even though I got ample amounts of sleep. I was short and cranky with the people around me, i.e. Adam (sorry dear!). I felt cold and isolated in my own little wintry world and it wasn’t very fun. I thought I was just being dramatic and tried to put it out of my mind and force myself into a happy mood. Then I started seeing a few articles about SAD and I remembered back to my psych class. Could I be experiencing my own case of Seasonal Affective Disorder? Right about this time, Adam and I left for our honeymoon to Jamaica. I was really hoping that my grumpy mood wouldn’t ruin our trip. Now, there probably was a combination of things that went into lifting my mood immensely while we were in Jamaica. One: we were on our honeymoon, who could be grumpy then? Two: we didn’t have to go to work or deal with reality, we were in Jamaica! But I must say I felt amazing on our honeymoon, no sight of the “winter blues” any where.
The transformation my mood took while on my honeymoon made me really look into SAD when I returned back home. What was it that made me feel so much better in beautiful Jamaica and how could I recreate that here at home where winter was barreling down on us? Is there any possible way that nutrition could play a part in this?
For those of you who don’t know or are not very familiar with SAD here is a very simple break down. As no one really knows what causes SAD, there isn’t just one treatment. So, for my purposes I tried a few non-medicinal “cures” on my own to see what would happen. Now, like I said at the beginning of this post, I am NOT saying that these will work for everyone nor are they proven cures. These are just the few things that I tried that appeared to work.
Sunlight. Some doctors believe that SAD is caused due to the lack of sun during the winter months. The days are shorter and it’s cold so even when the sun is out not many people want to venture outside. During my time in Jamaica there was an abundance of sun and I spent a lot of time outside enjoying the rays (with my SPF 100. I’m quite pasty). Plus, during the summer I am out in the sun a lot as well and never experience any depression like symptoms. So each day (when the weather allows it) I try to get just a little sunshine. 15 minutes is really all you need. You don’t even have to venture out into the tundra, you can stand in a nice sunny window for a few minutes each day!
Increase in Calcium and fresh fruits and veggies. This goes along with the sunlight. We get our best source of Vitamin D from the sun (and a lot of our foods, like milk, are fortified with Vitamin D). We absorb Vitamin D optimally when it is combined with Calcium. So along with getting my few minutes of sunshine each day, I decided to up my intake of Calcium. I started drinking Silk brand Almondmilk (the unsweetened variety) which has 45% Calcium as well as 25% Vitamin D2. I also made sure I was getting a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables that were also high in Calcium like broccoli and oranges. Not only are fruits and vegetables healthy, they are great at helping to boost energy!
Talk (or write) it out. I mentioned earlier that I was cranky and short a lot with Adam. He would pretty much say something and because I was already in a bad mood I would just lash out or shut down completely. He had no idea that I had been feeling grumpy all day, so he was totally blindsided. I kept all my feelings to myself and that in turn made me feel even grumpier. So when I finally shared with him how I had been feeling down lately, it was a huge relief to both of us. I felt better for getting some things off my chest and sharing with someone and he felt better because he realized his wife was not some angry weirdo. I understand that everyone might not have someone with whom they can talk to on a regular basis. In that case I suggest starting a journal. I tried this out and have been writing a little each day. It has really helped to get things out, even if it’s just a few sentences in a notebook.
These three tactics have been working well for me over the past few weeks. Again, I was not diagnosed with SAD and I never sought professional medical attention. These were just my observations and feelings. I tried to tune into what my body needed for me to feel my best. There are many other ways that you can try such as light therapy, counseling, or prescription medication. It all depends on how YOUR body functions and what it needs to feel its best. If you think that you might have SAD or just want to learn more about it, I encourage you to visit your doctor or the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association’s (SADA) website.
I know this topic did not have much to do with nutrition, but I felt it was an important thing to address. I’m interested in total health, and while I really do enjoy the nutrition side to health, it is not the only aspect of a happy, healthy body. I hope this post was able to help a few of you out there, or, at the very least, served as a good learning experience!
I’m not sure what next weeks post will be about, but I promise it will be something good! Have an amazing week and I’ll see you soon!