Many people have heard of this – seasonal affective disorder – but for those who haven’t, I’ll describe it here. Seasonal affective disorder (yes, and its nickname or acronym is really SAD!) is thought to be a depressive state but related to the changing of the seasons. Mostly people who are diagnosed with this disorder find that symptoms start around the fall and go through winter into early spring. Your energy is low, and you feel kind of moody. Then suddenly when spring is in full mode and into summer, those symptoms seem to go away.

That’s one way you can tell if it’s a depression due to other things (like school starting for kids?!), or the one really connected to the seasons. There is light therapy available, and purchasing a specialized lamp is not very expensive. Of course, there are medications available too. And you might find that a little Vitamin D supplementation can be of some significant help.

Some other symptoms are having trouble sleeping, maybe you’re not as hungry and have experienced a little weight loss (although some people have the opposite reaction and eat due to their moods so they can actually gain weight), and you might also feel irritable and/or anxious.

It seems that people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder have a high risk of SAD, and manic episodes can be linked to spring and summer, for example. If you are having symptoms, please by all means reach out to a competent, qualified health care professional and seek out help. You’re not alone, and help is definitely available.

If you’re seeking holistic help, I’d definitely recommend light therapy. I have tried it and it definitely helped me out, although I didn’t actually have SAD. The light from these special lamps is about 20 times brighter than other indoor lights. You can use it for about a half hour, preferably in the morning.

Exercise is another way you can help yourself if you think you have SAD. It has a ton of health benefits as most of us already know! I always recommend doing something you enjoy so it won’t feel like “work.” Exercise is being researched as an adjunctive therapy for SAD.

As I just stated, Vitamin D is also indicated, as it can bolster your “feel good” neurotransmitter, serotonin. If you have the opportunity to do so, you could plan a vacation in a warm, sunny place in fall and/or winter.

Research is beginning to demonstrate that when people opt for healthier diets, this can have a dampening effect on symptoms of SAD, both in reducing the severity of the symptoms, and can perhaps even ward it off. As always, avoid overly processed foods, eat healthy veggies like broccoli and brussel sprouts (they contain folate which, when low, helps to produce depression). Dial white flour goods like bread and pasta down, as well as sugar.

Some herbs may be helpful, like St. John’s wort, known for lifting moods, as well as anything containing omega-3s, like walnuts and salmon. Mimosa flower can help elevate your mood, and lemon balm and lavender are known for their calming effect.

Also, anything in the realm of mindfulness practices helps reduce stress which positively impacts symptoms. Think about taking nice leisurely walks, meditating, doing yoga, etc. … whatever you enjoy doing.

Not everything works equally well for everyone, so try things out to find out what helps you, an individual, the most.

Remember this: knowledge is power so take charge of your health!

And as always, please have a happy, holistically healthy day!

Dr. P