Have you ever noticed yourself feeling down, anxious or restless during the winter months for no apparent reason? The colder temperatures and shorter days of wintertime affect some more drastically than others.
Seasonal affective disorder, also known as SAD, is experienced by 1 in 5 Americans, 75 percent of whom are women. Sufferers of SAD often feel symptoms of deep depression, which begin to lift only as the seasons change. Symptoms may be even more powerful as winter sluggishly draws to an end, well into early spring. Fortunately, there are a plethora of natural methods to choose from to kick even the most severe seasonal depression.
SAD is no laughing matter. Those who are severely afflicted by this disorder may experience hopelessness, pervasive sadness, anxiety, irritability, fatigue and loss of interest in daily activities. They may also gain or lose weight, and even experience notable sleep changes and suicidal thoughts. In a 2012 news release, Dr. William Weggel, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic Health System, stated, “there are many people who experience winter blues. However, there are those who are experiencing more serious symptoms. The good news is that in most cases, we are able to find a treatment plan to help the patient through the winter months.”
Traditional treatment for SAD includes light therapy – exposing a patient to artificial light to compensate for the diminished daily sunlight – but it is only effective in about half of the cases. Frighteningly, SAD patients are sometimes prescribed anti-depressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), two classes of drugs that can lead to serious side effects. Helpguide.org lists common side effects of SSRI’s as including nausea, sleep problems, drowsiness and sexual problems. They are also addictive and can cause withdrawal if the dosage is not tapered down properly.
Luckily, nature is rich with a number of herbs that can greatly ease both seasonal and general depression. Passionflower and Saint John’s Wort are two superstars worth researching. Aromatherapy, coupled with essential oils, is a great way to absorb the calming benefits of herbs directly into the circulatory system. Try high-quality essential oils of lavender, ylang ylang and chamomile. You can also add several drops to a hot bath and soak away the sadness.
Exercising outside during the limited daylight hours is essential – a brisk half-hour walk even in the chilly winter sun can do wonders. Research in balancing circadian rhythms, the changes that humans experience during a 24-hour day, has also proven beneficial to SAD patients. Remember that there is always hope, and do not hesitate to reach out to family and friends for support.
-The Alternative Daily