Don't be S.A.D.! Seasonal Affective Disorder Is Not Inevitable.
At this time of year, many of my patients complain about feeling depressed and irritable. They feel sluggish, want to sleep more, crave carbohydrates, and suffer from headaches. Do you experience this? If so, you're right on schedule. Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is a mild form of depression suffered by many Canadians throughout the dark, colder Fall and Winter months.
Why does this happen to you? It is thought that these symptoms are a result of two main mechanisms. First, the absence of light stimulates an overproduction of melatonin, which makes you feel sleepy and tired. Secondly, the shorter days cause a reduction of seratonin, a mood regulating neurotransmitter, stimulated by sunlight.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has a slightly different perspective. Our human body is seen as a microcosm of nature, intimately tied to our surroundings, including the climate and seasons. As nature slows down and contracts in preparation for a winter of hibernation, so to do we naturally slow down, both emotionally and physically. In fact, it is a sign of health to want to rest and engage in solitary activities throughout the winter. It is not healthy, however, to sleep all day, feel depressed and isolate oneself. If your body is out of balance going into Fall and Winter, then the natural restful state of the season, may turn into the pathology of S.A.D.
So, if you can't fly South for the winter, what do you do? Here's a few suggestions to try.
Move your body! Add walking outdoors in the sunlight to your daily activity.
Eat whole grains if you have cravings, instead of refined carbohydrates.
Don't overeat, it's better to have smaller meal more frequently.
Go to bed earlier and wake up earlier to soak up the little sunlight we do have.
Add warming spices to your diet such as cinnamon, ginger, cloves, garlic, black pepper, and mild curry powder.
Applying pressure to an acupuncture point between your eyebrows (yintang) for 5-10 minutes, 3 times daily can be a great technique to combat S.A.D. In addition, pressing a point on the crown of the head (baihui), can be very uplifting.
Frequent acupuncture treatments have been shown to increase seratonin levels, lifting depressed moods. Chinese herbs can be given to address underlying imbalances, and boost energy levels. Chinese Medicine treatments and dietary changes made in the Fall, can set you up for feeling your best all Winter long.
A registered Acupuncturist or TCM Practitioner can give you more information on how to live in harmony with the seasons, and beat Seasonal Affective Disorder.