MENTAL HEALTH WELL-BEING: Strategies for fending off SAD

As we have transitioned into fall and changed our clocks we are preparing to bear weather changes, continue to work through COVID-19 uncertainty, and must decide how we will approach the upcoming holidays all while working to balance our mental and physical health. It is worthy to acknowledge with the seasonal changes that some of us may experience what’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD. The feelings that accompany SAD are parallel to depression yet differ in that SAD involves a specific pattern of time as winter approaches and daylight hours become shorter. SAD typically begins to back off as spring arrives.

Reminders of traits of depression that may appear in SAD include feelings of sadness, irritability and feeling hopeless, which can lead to loneliness. One may have feelings of dissatisfaction or guilt. One can feel less motivated and may have lost interest in typically enjoyed experiences. Additional traits may include being easily fatigued and having low energy. Changes in ones’ sleep, appetite and concentration can also occur, which in turn exacerbates the cycle.

The takeaway here is: Be mindful of how you feel, acknowledge and learn about the traits you may experience, and then give yourself time to decide what you may need.

Considerations as you prepare for potential traits of SAD include:

— Working to have a sleep routine that consists of waking up and retiring at the same time each day. Consider making slight adjustments to achieve your ideal night of sleep. From setting the desired temperature of the space, choosing the pillow and blanket covering you prefer, to the noise and lighting of the space, in addition to the type of lounge wear you desire, all those smalls things added together may permit an overall improved night of sleep.

— Making sure you are up to date with an annual physical exam and lab work. It is not unusual, especially where we live, to have low vitamin D. During seasonal changes low vitamin D can be a contributing factor to depressed mood. Lab work can provide insight on your vitamin D levels and your physician can recommend an appropriate amount based on your levels. Moreover, as the season changes and we head to a new year consider your health care goals. Share them with your health care provider and perhaps consider sharing with those in your life who are supportive of you.

— Resting with intention can have long-lasting benefits. Rest is intentionally slowing down. Resting may include closing your eyes, and spending time in quiet or silence that allows thinking. Intentional resting may include taking a longer shower or making time to enjoy a hot bath. Stretching is a mindful way to re-focus and rest your mind; it has great exercise benefits to your body and can even be done simply sitting down. A mindful walk observing the…

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