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Does the Rain Have You Feeling Down?

SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — affects many people. Winter is a wonderful time to focus on your inner self and invest in your happiness.

According to the Sacramento Bee, the northern Sierra Nevada range had its third-driest December ever. While Californians recognize this year's dry winter season, many can’t help but mourn the sight 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.  

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.  

About 85 percent experiencing symptoms of SAD respond to the use of 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 30 minutes a day, whereas a 2,500 lux box requires four hours of exposure. It should be used daily and is usually effective within three or four 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. A Vietnamese plant called holy basil can be very 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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stinky February 06, 2012 at 01:29 AM
*Looking for the "agree" button*
Stinky February 06, 2012 at 01:31 AM
Did you perhaps hold this story, thinking that by now many of us must have SAD? 'Cause it hasn't rained this week, and we've had clear skies. What gives?
Dorothy February 08, 2012 at 07:33 PM
I often think that it is more than the grey skies that bring on SAD. In some parts of the country, you can end up in doors and almost housebound with the bad weather. When you don't get out and about, you may find yourself more depressed than usual.
Lauren Ayers February 19, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Another approach to the short days of winter is to make sure you're getting enough vitamin D since it’s harder to make it from sunlight in winter. There is tons of research on the role of vitamin D deficiency correlating with depression. Think about it, whatever D you soaked up last summer is gone by January, February, or March. Did you know that this far from the equator we can't make vitamin D from sunlight from October to March? That's because the tilt of the earth means the ultraviolet B rays have farther to travel so they get absorbed by the atmosphere before they reach us. In fact, due to our latitude, even the rest of the year the UVB rays only get all the way to us between 11 am and 1 pm. Other factors that prevent us from make D from sunlight is that, unlike our evolutionary past, we wear a lot of clothes and stay indoors much more and, we eat a lot less fish, and, the latest innovation, we wear sunblock. More info at: http://goodschoolfood.org/pdf/fightfluwithD.pdf
Lauren Ayers February 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
P.S. Kaiser is hip to vitamin D and is willing to prescribe a blood test to see where patients are. Lifeguards are the gold standard because they make their own D; their average blood level is 60 nanograms of D per mililiter of blood. The average American is about a third of that. If lifeguards get 100% on their D Repletion Test, the rest of us get 33%! It's even bad for children -- 70% of American kids are below optimum, it's 80% for Latinos, and 90% for African American kids (melanin is a sunblock). The research shows people can safely take up to 10,000 international units, which is a lot more than the 400 IU our behind-the-times government standards suggests.

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