There are no quick fixes to feeling down and just plain “blah” during this time of the year when the weather changes from summer to fall. It somehow seems a drastic change to be able to swim in the ocean one day, and the next day you need to wear a sweater and boots.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as the “Winter Blues”, usually starts earlier than we often think. SAD is cyclical causing depressive periods during fall and winter seasons and non-depressed periods during spring and summer. Symptoms of SAD include sleeping more than usual, having less energy, losing interest in activities, an inability to focus, think clearly, and increased appetite. Many people associate SAD with the freezing cold days of January, but it actually starts closer to October or November. The weekend we have to “fall back” in time is one of the hardest adjustments for our minds and bodies to make.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make who are prone to SAD is that they deny it until it has them really, really down. Seasonal Affective Disorder does not just occur overnight, and the severity of it can be prevented. Fall is a good time to start preventing SAD if you know it might affect you. Some ways to prevent and or treat SAD include: exercise, eating a diet of seasonal foods, ensuring your Vitamin D level is adequate, and using a “Light Box.”
Numerous studies have proven that daily use of a light box can change the chemical make-up in your brain. Light boxes are now commonly sold throughout the country and a quick Google search will produce numerous places to buy one. A light box provides exposure to 10,000 lux of light (equivalent to a very sunny day), and essentially mimics outdoor light. It is best to use a light box first thing in the morning when you wake up or to help you wake up. Many people use them as “alarms” to wake them up. You can attach a timer to the light box and it will turn on to whatever time you set. It is sort of like having the sunrise right in your own bedroom!
Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and can be prevented, so there is no need for you to fall back this year other than changing your clock.