Friday, February 1, 2008

Fair-weather Friday

Since the sun is currently shining, I figure now would be a great time to shed some light, so to speak, on my current struggle with SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. Technically, I'm only in the Winter Blues stage, however because I have dealt with some form of SAD since puberty, I know that preventative measures have to be taken now before it gets any worse.

SAD is found to be directly related to the amount of sunlight a person gets. As Fall changes to Winter and the sunlight becomes less intense, often coupled with long bouts of cloudy skies, some people experience depression, lethargy, social withdrawal, sweet and starch cravings, weight-gain, oversleeping and lack of focus, among other symptoms. The circadian rhythm is disrupted, which in turn affects a person's melatonin levels. Also, sunlight (or lack thereof) has been shown to directly affect a person's seratonin levels. Usually as Winter changes to Spring, these symptoms disappear. Some individuals experience SAD in Spring and Summer instead of Fall and Winter, marked by insomnia, irritability, weight-loss, and an increased sex drive.

Reverse SAD is when a person experiences mania or hypomania during the summer months. While many people are much happier during these months, people with Reverse SAD are also hyperactive and have an unbridled enthusiasm out of proportion to the situation.

SAD is something I've come to expect every Winter, and I try to prepare for it accordingly. I try to soak up as much sun (safely) as possible during the winter months, which is sometimes extremely difficult. I try to control what I eat without completely restricting myself from the sweets and starches. If I restrict myself, I know from past experiences that I'll binge on sweets to the point of making myself sick. By allowing myself little indulgences, the binges are prevented.

Exercise is very important, so I try to make myself do some sort of exercise every day, even if it's just 10 minutes of squats behind my desk at work. Of course, the catch-22 is that SAD also makes me lethargic, so I really have to MAKE myself do something. This is actually one of the hardest parts of coping with SAD.

I also usually take the winter months to complete fun crafts, particularly sewing or crocheting. I love crocheting because I get into a rhythm and pattern, which gives me a sense of order and control. This is really helpful when all the thoughts in my head are jumbled up, because sometimes I feel like I'm trying to listen to a crowd of voices while my head is in the fish tank. I know things are being said, but I can't really focus on any of the conversations because they're all kind of blended together.

This year the Winter Blues snuck up on me because I haven't really had time to think about myself. I have been so focused on Tree Faerie that I didn't take the preventative measures, so now I have to really take measures to pull myself out of this funk. I make myself exercise. I started crocheting an afghan. I soak up the sun. I will make it through the next 6 weeks.

Is it any wonder why I am drawn to a nature-based spiritual path? Nature has such an impact on my life. One of the things that really helps me through the winter is knowing that after Winter Solstice, I know for a fact that the days really are getting longer. At Imbolc (which is tomorrow, February 2nd), I know I only have 6 more weeks of winter before it is officially Spring. This knowledge makes it easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel.


icanseeclearlynow said...

oh YAY i'm first!

icanseeclearlynow said...

i once worked with someone who suffered with this condition. at first i didn't believe her, but then i saw the effects every winter. you probably feel it doubley with the pressure of being a new mommy.

i'm sending a hug and a little sunshine your way, andrea.



Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

I wonder if you could take melatonin supplements to help with this. I know my aunt takes it to reset her internal clock when traveling from the US to her home in New Zealand. The time change can be killer.

TTQ said...

My sister use to insist that I had SAD. Back before I took any psych meds at all. I've been very blue and anxiety ridden the past month so I asked my psych doc if people in Florida get SAD. He said they do but to a lesser degree. My husband never understands that I like to nap in sunbeams in the living room..our bedroom has three layers of window treatments and is a cave..

The point is I feel your pain. Even with all my meds I get the blues. Just not as bad overall.

Monnik said...

I've been struggling with a mild form of this since winter. mostly it's frustration at the weather - i really just want to be outside!!

hope you feel better!!

Cecily R said...

Oh, I'm sorry you have to deal with that! I think to some extent most of us deal with a littleof it, but I'm sorry yours is more pronounced.

My good friend has SAD too and he has to use a light. I know it's hard on his family.

I'd never heard of reverse SAD.

Andrea said...

Maria - thanks for the hug and sunshine. :) I got to enjoy a bit of the sunshine on Saturday, and it really does help.

CMGD - I'm going to have to check into that. DTTF was taking a melatonin supp. for a while, but I don't remember why...

TTQ - :) I'm only a little (or maybe a lot) jealous that you live in FL. I've banned my sister-in-law from telling me about her wonderful FL weather until I feel better.

Monnik - I can't blame you! I must admit that reading your weather adventures lately makes me feel a lot better about my weather. Especially since right now it's 72 (freak warm front).

Cecily - I'm looking into getting a light... :)

carrie & troy keiser said...

I had never heard of this, thanks for enlightening me and the rest of us. I wish you sunny days and energy! :)