By Dr. Kala Singh
For centuries, poets and writers have drawn parallels between the weather and mood. We all know how the weather affects what we wear, how we travel, what we choose to do, and how we feel.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of clinical depression that usually starts with the shortening days of late autumn and lasts through the winter. Since the days of winter get shorter, SAD has been found to be more common in northern countries. In Canada, about 2 to 3% of the general population will experience SAD in their lifetime.
• May be similar to depression making it difficult to diagnose.
• Change in appetite. Often, the person gets cravings for sweet, starchy, or other carbohydrate-rich foods. This can result in overeating and weight gain.
• Often tired all the time, tend to oversleep, and can sometimes feel anxious and desolate.
• Suicidal thoughts.
Although SAD may affect some children and teenagers, it tends to begin in people over the age of 20 and is more common in women than in men.
SAD may be caused by a lack of daylight. Each of us has an internal “biological clock” that regulates our routines, a wake-sleep and active-inactive cyclical routine called a circadian rhythm. This biological clock responds to changes in season, partly because of the differences in the length of the day. One useful way to combat this is to use light therapy, also known as phototherapy. This can be done using a fluorescent light box, a device now available in a variety of safe, economical and portable designs. People with certain medical conditions or who are taking certain medications should have special eye examinations before considering light therapy. In addition to using SAD lamp lifestyle changes like exercise, relaxation, healthful diet, social supports, medical supports, and compliance to medications are helpful.
Following suggestions may help ease or even prevent SAD:
• spend more time outdoors during the day and try to arrange your environment to maximize sunlight exposure
• keep curtains open during the day
• move furniture so that you sit near a window
• install skylights and add lamps
• regular exercise
• daily noon-hour walk
• try a winter vacation in sunny climates— although keep in mind that the symptoms will recur after you return home. When back at home, work at resisting the carbohydrate and sleep cravings that come with SAD
• for those more severely affected, antidepressant medication and/or short-term counselling (particularly cognitive-behavioural therapy) may also prove to be helpful.
Dr. Kala Singh gives spiritual counseling and psychotherapy to clients with stress and mental health problems. For more information he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.