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Preventing the “Winter Blues”

December 13, 2012



Seasonal Affective Disorder, or “SAD”, is a type of depression that comes on in late fall to winter, and is believed to affect 4-6% of our U.S. population, and perhaps another 10% in a milder form. It affects more women than men, and typically those between the ages of 15-55. As its name implies, its symptoms seem to be brought on by our shorter days and less exposure to sunlight during the shorter months of winter.
Even those of us blessed to live in Southern California can be affected, as our days are shorter, we have less exposure to daily sunlight and less opportunity to enjoy outdoor aerobic exercise.

Symptoms of SAD include:
*Feeling sad/down, grumpy and/or anxious
*Increased appetite, particularly craving carbohydrates, and gaining weight
*Increased sleep and feeling tired throughout the day
*Lost interest in your usual activities.

How SAD differs from other forms of depression is that these symptoms come and go at about the same time each year. For most people with SAD, symptoms start in the Fall and end in the Spring.

If you are prone to SAD, we at SmartCare advocate a preventative approach. Make sure to get adequate sleep each night, and try to keep to the same sleep schedule as much as possible.
Balance your diet with healthy greens and foods that provide energy. Try to eat frequent, small meals, and include proteins and the “good fats”.
Be sure to take advantage of whatever daylight you can: take a walk at lunch, and/or before you go to work or school. Move your workspace to a window. It has been suggested that even winter gardening can help those with SAD. Check with your health care provider to see if you would benefit from a Vitamin D supplement.
Continue your exercise routine, including whatever form of aerobic exercise you enjoy. Of course, outside is best!

Consider light therapy if your symptoms return this year, despite your prevention efforts. Light therapy is the treatment of choice for SAD, as it mimics sunlight and provides you with additional exposure.
And, as always, reach out to others for support and guidance.
Pamela Bryson, LCSW

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