Tips for Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – Part Three

Do you have problems with sleeping too much, eating too much, and losing interest in your favourite activities during the winter? You may be suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). For the last two weeks, I have been posting tips I have found to be useful in helping to beat this disorder. If you didn’t read Part One and Part Two, be sure to read them now. Today’s post is my final one in this series, and I am sharing my last three tips with you.

tips for beating seasonal affective disorder

Grow things

When the outdoors is a blustery, white world, creating a green, garden-like setting indoors can be extremely soothing. This is why growing indoor plants can help alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D. Whether you choose to grow herbs, flowers, or “house plants,” all plants help to produce oxygen which is vital during a season when the windows and doors are closed and the heat is turned up. Tending plants also provides a type of therapy.

indoor plants beneficial to health
Growing indoor plants like ferns can be beneficial to your health

Pets are also another great way to beat S.A.D. They provide great company (I admit I used to talk to my dog all the time!). Knowing you have a pet to care for gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. A dog gives you a reason to get outside and get active as does chickens, horses, or other outside animals. Nurturing a living thing can be comforting and calming.

Stay connected

In a season when we are tempted to stay home instead of venturing out in the cold, we might begin to lose connection with friends and family. Communication and social involvement with others needs to be a priority during the winter for those who struggle with S.A.D. Sharing your feelings, laughing, and even crying with someone else, is a vital part of maintaining good mental health. “No man is an island” is most certainly true during the winter.

Be creative

Hobbies such as knitting, wood-carving, painting, quilting, and welding, provide wonderful creative outlets. Making something beautiful and/or useful from simple supplies, gives the feeling of accomplishment. It also creates a connection between the mind and hands. Keeping your hands busy can help keep your mind busy in a positive, useful direction. Creating things also allows for an outlet of our emotions. Something as simple as drawing a picture of how you feel can be a great form of therapy.

painting can bring comfort
Creative hobbies such as painting can bring comfort

I have found these tips to be extremely helpful in my own life, and I hope you have found them inspiring in your own struggle with S.A.D. As always, I want to encourage you to consult a doctor if your symptoms are debilitating or you have frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Blessings,

Joanna

Tips for Beating Seasonsal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – Part Two

Do you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)? Last week, I started a series on five tips to beat S.A.D. In that post, I talked about getting outside its benefits. If you haven’t read it yet be sure to check it out. Tips for  Beating S.A.D. – Part One

In Part Two, I am sharing my second tip for beating S.A.D.

tips for beating seasonal affective disorder

So here is my second point:

Get Your Nutrients

As with our physical health, eating nutrient rich food can be a great benefit to our mental health. Studies have proven that a deficiency of certain vitamins can give symptoms of depression. First let me clarify that I am not a health professional. You should always talk to your doctor before taking an new vitamins. I am sharing information that I have found, actually tried, and found helpful. Here are the vitamins that I take on a daily basis:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is very different from other vitamins in the sense that it naturally doesn’t come from outside sources. This is the only vitamin that is actually produced by our body (similar to a hormone). However, our body typically produces this vitamin when it comes in contact with UVB rays from the sun. This can be very difficult to achieve during the winter. Symptoms of deficiency of vitamin D include tiredness and depression. This article from Psychology Today provides interesting facts about the link between vitamin D and depression: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression 

If you are unable to get sunlight you may benefit from light therapy which I discussed in Part One of this series last week. Some milk products are also fortified with vitamin D. Many people, including myself, find it beneficial to also take a supplement.

Vitamin B-12

Tiredness and lethargy are some of the most common symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency. If you suffer from S.A.D., the symptoms may be even more prevalent since many S.A.D. sufferers already feel lethargic.  The lack of vitamin B-12 has also been associated with low cognitive function and the ability to carry out simple tasks. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-b12/art-20363663

Food sources of this vitamin include animal based food such as cottage cheese, ground beef, and eggs. Here is a link to an excellent chart found on the Dietitians of Canada website: https://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B12.aspx

A supplement can also be taken if your preference of food sources still do not provide a high enough dosage. I personally have taken a supplement for a couple of years.

I hope I have inspired you with this information I have presented. I trust that you will do your own research and take the necessary steps to getting the nutrients that will help you beat S.A.D.

Be sure to watch for Part Three next Saturday.

Blessings,

Joanna

 

 

Tips for Beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) – Part One

Do you feel hopeless, lethargic, and agitated? Are you eating and sleeping a lot more than usual? All of these are symptoms of depression, but if you only have these symptoms during the winter or these symptoms intensify during the winter, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). The Mayo Clinic defines it this way:

“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

While I have never been formally diagnosed with this, I have sought advice and assistance in this area from my family doctor. If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, I encourage you to seek professional help. You may need medication and specialized therapy. This article is not intended to replace that, but simply to share tips on how I have learned to cope.

Tips for Beating for Seasonal Affective Disorder

This is Part One of a series of articles on my top five tips to beating S.A.D. So here is my first tip:

Get Outside

When it is cold and snowy outdoors it can be tempting to stay inside where it is warm and cozy. Getting dressed in the required outerwear can seem like a chore, and much of that outerwear can feel cumbersome and restricting. However, getting outside is a crucial part of dealing with S.A.D. Here are three reasons why:

You get active

Let’s be honest, you are not likely to go outside in the cold to just sit and relax! Staying warm requires some kind of movement, and movement is an important part of good health. It has many benefits from combating diseases to increasing energy levels. This is a great opportunity to try some winter sports activities. The list of winter sports is endless, but here are just a few I have found enjoyable: cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and hiking. Even something as simple as taking a scenic walk or building a snowman can be enjoyable and provide exercise at the same time.

Snowshoeing
Outdoor activities such as snowshoeing help to beat S.A.D.

You get fresh air

Step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. What do you feel? Doing this always seems to clear my mind. Perhaps because it increases my oxygen levels which is an important part of maintaining overall good health and especially important for the brain. Oxygen is vital to the brain. According to National Association for Child Development, “Brain cells are very sensitive to decreases in oxygen levels and don’t survive or function well very long without it.” http://www.nacd.org/my-brain-needs-oxygen-what-can-i-do/ Our oxygen levels are so important, they are considered vital signs by the medical field. No wonder we feel sluggish during the winter when we are all inside with the windows closed and the heat turned up!

You get sunlight

One of the main causes of S.A.D. is a shortage of vitamin D which humans produce when exposed to sunlight. For those of us who live in the north, the nights can seem never ending and the time frame for getting sunlight is much shorter. It can be dark when we leave home in the morning and dark when we return. It might take a little planning, but setting aside a half hour each day to be exposed to sunlight is an important step in fighting S.A.D. If it is almost impossible to find this time or on stormy days when the sun is not shining, light therapy can be used instead. I purchased a light box several years ago and have found it to be extremely helpful. More information visit the Mayo Clinic website here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/light-therapy/about/pac-20384604

light therapy box
My Light Therapy Box

One of my favourite reasons for going outside in the winter is the happy feeling I have when returning indoors. If I am feeling restless and “housebound,” I go outside even for a short walk. After feeling the bitter cold on my face, I can’t wait to get back indoors! Back inside, I am ready to get cozy and settle in. This is true even in the dark when I can often be found pacing back and forth on my balcony!

Now, put down your phone or close out your browser, put on some warm clothing, and head outside. Be sure to share your tips in the comments and look for part two next Saturday.

Blessings,

Joanna

 

5 Tips to Beat Anxiety

In this week’s post, I am changing directions a little. As someone who has suffered with intense anxiety throughout most of my life, I decided to share how I have learned to deal with it. Anxiety to some degree is entirely normal. Most of us feel anxiety before tests, certain events, or during major life changes. These tips that I am sharing will certainly help during those times. However, I am sharing these tips for those of us who feel anxiety even over the everyday routines of life.

If you find your anxiety interfering with your ability to function please make an appointment to see your doctor. I also encourage you to find a qualified counsellor/therapist who can provide a listening ear as well as generate a specific plan of action for you. I have found both of these disciplines to be extremely helpful in this area of my life.

I also have developed some of my own coping mechanisms, and I felt like maybe these would be helpful to someone else. So here are my tips:

1. Take 5. If you are feeling overwhelmed in your present environment, leave the room and take a few minutes. At work or in social settings, I have at times excused myself to the bathroom where I decompress and take deep breaths. You’ll be amazed at how well this actually works!

2. Get the right amount of sleep. This can be difficult for people who tend to have insomnia during times of high anxiety. It can be tough to shut your mind down long enough to sleep. I occasionally struggle with this. One way I deal with that is to reflect on the things that make me happy. Of course, my thoughts will stray, but I usually can bring myself back to focus. If it takes a long time for me to go to sleep or I wake up in the night and am unable to go back to sleep, I find changing environments helpful. That means moving to the couch or a spare bed. What I most often struggle with, however, is sleeping too much when I am feeling anxious. While it is helpful to get rest, sleeping too much can actually lead from anxiety into depression. In order to combat this, I try to make a plan for each day of things I want to accomplish. That way when I get up in the morning, instead of going back to bed, I focus on my goals. I will sometimes take naps in the afternoon, but I will set my alarm for 30 minutes in order to not take too long of a nap. When the alarm goes off, I get up and have something to eat. This helps give me energy and return to working on my to-do list. I will admit that I still don’t have this process down pat, but I am continuing to work on it!

3. Get outside. Fresh air and exercise are both great medicines in dealing with anxiety even if it is just a short walk. I also find that sitting outside while reading or journaling effective. Even more so, working in the dirt is especially beneficial. Studies have proven that a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae in soil increases the brain chemical of serotonin and acts like an antidepressant. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/66840.php)

4. Have a down time. In our fast-paced society, having a time to relax and do something enjoyable is essential. Finding this time can be difficult for some people especially those with kids, but it needs to be a priority since it is needed to lower stress and thus lower your stress hormone – cortisol. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 Setting aside time each day to read, journal, craft, cook, or do what is enjoyable to you helps keep your anxiety intact and your cortisol balanced. Sit down right now and make a plan of how you will accomplish this.

5. Recite Scripture. I have found my relationship with God most helpful in dealing with my anxiety. There is a lot of great promises and encouraging scriptures found in God’s Word. If you memorize a few of these, they will come back to your memory just when you need them. One of my favourite verses is “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear (reverence) him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7

I hope this tips have been helpful to you. Be sure to sure your tips in the comments below.

Happy Fall!

Joanna