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Seasonal Affective Disorder in Maumelle, AR

It has been about 45 days since summer came to an end and kids went back to school. Life isn’t necessarily any more difficult this time of year, but you just don’t feel as happy. You try your best to be positive, but it seems just getting up in the morning and making it through the day is almost impossible without feeling blue. Sometimes you want to lie in bed a little longer or go to bed a little earlier just to take a break from the doldrums. You may have even noticed a lack of interest in your favorite hobbies and pastimes. In fact, it feels like this time of year is one deep sigh after another.

man in red shirt on floor

Seasonal affective disorder is a real diagnosis. There is a large portion of our population that struggles with this condition, which has the ironic acronym SAD. But why do we feel sad in the late fall and early winter months? The reasons are actually quite logical and scientifically proven.

As we enter the beginning of winter, we notice the days are shorter and the nights are longer. There is less sunshine, which contributes directly to our health and well-being. When your mother used to tell you to go outside and get sunshine, it wasn’t just to get you out of the house. There is scientific research that shows how sunshine actually helps our mood, as well as our body. In fact, vitamin D is an essential micronutrient that can only be produced internally, in the presence of sunshine on our skin. Less sunshine means less vitamin D. Vitamin D contributes directly to our ability to fight off disease. In general, sunshine just helps us feel better and more positive, as if the sun itself brightens our day literally and figuratively.

The body has a system of circadian rhythms as well. The circadian rhythm affects our sleep patterns among other things. It is natural for the body to want to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s bright. It only makes sense that less sunlight affects our circadian rhythms to some extent, making us drowsy, and in some cases, making it difficult to get up in the morning. When we feel sleepy our nervous system is actually depressed. It’s not the same as depression, but in many ways, feeling lethargic or tired is just your body trying to let you know it needs a little more sleep. These things are common, and once we understand how the body works, and the effect light has on us, we can take steps to feel a little better.

Here are a few tips to help you out during these darker months.

  1. First, it is always good advice to listen to your body. If you feel a little sleepy and you’re able to go to bed a little earlier or even wake up a little later, do your best to manage those needs for sleep. Six to eight hours of rest is absolutely required for good health and our emotional wellness. When it comes to our sleep habit, make a point of getting to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. This sleep habit is like an internal alarm clock that helps the body adapt.
  2. Second, we should always remember self-care is our responsibility. Take a look at your diet. Do you eat well-balanced meals? A healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner are very important in running the powerhouse that is our body. A lack of good nutrition can often make seasonal affective disorder feel like chronic depression. If you’re concerned about your weight and you’ve been on a diet, then eat smaller meals more often. Many of our clients enjoy five very small meals each day instead of three larger meals. The smaller meals help us to maintain our energy level throughout the day rather than feeling hungry and then overeating at mealtimes, which makes us feel tired and lethargic.
  3. Third, exercise is also important, but very few take the time to exercise regularly. Joining a big-box gym is fine but not required. Just being active is extremely important. Going out to walk the dog or spend time with your family (outside), when there is sunlight, is extremely important for your health and wellness. When it’s rainy and cold outside, we often find ourselves watching TV or doing indoor activities. Make a point to get up and move around every hour if you don’t want to be outside due to bad weather. Some sort of walking or stretching in general is important for your joints as well as your cardiorespiratory fitness. Get that blood moving. Even a few simple exercises will help you feel better. I recommend a few push-ups, sit-ups, or squats whenever you are feeling down in the dumps. It’s not enough to build muscle and you certainly won’t look like bodybuilder, but if this is all the exercise you get, it will help get that blood flowing.
  4. Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the more severe conditions associated with seasonal affective disorder. Depression is real and not an easy condition to deal with. Hypersomnia, which means needing more sleep, is one indication. Anhedonia, which is a lack of interest in the things that you normally enjoy, is another important symptom. Ultimately, we often feel irritable and sometimes even angry. Any helplessness and hopelessness will contribute to that particular symptom. If eating right, sleeping right, and exercising fail to improve your seasonal affective disorder, then perhaps you should consider an appointment with one of our therapists at Thriveworks.

At Thriveworks North Little Rock, we accept all major insurance plans to keep your cost low. Our therapists are experts in their field, and they are professionally licensed. They can provide the best care for you. If seasonal affective disorder or other forms of depression are keeping you down, go ahead and make that call today at 501-404-9737. Feel free to call us with questions and comments, even if you’re not yet sure about an appointment.

Curtiss Robinson, MA, Counseling
Thriveworks

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