Soon after the excitement of the holidays is over I often find myself facing the rest of the winter with a feeling of dread and a bit of melancholy. Although I’ve never actually been diagnosed with SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, sometimes I feel like I might suffer from a touch of it.
Feelings of sadness, lack of focus, fatigue, and moodiness around this time of year are all common symptoms of SAD. Mild forms of SAD are believed to affect as many as 20% of people in the United States. Experts aren’t sure what causes SAD, but they think it may be caused by a lack of sunlight. Lack of light may upset your sleep-wake cycle and other circadian rhythms, and it may cause problems with a brain chemical called serotonin that affects mood.
Fortunately, some SAD symptoms can be minimized by doing a few simple things.
1. Get your daily dose of sunlight.
Get as much natural light as possible between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. Get outside and go for a walk, or at least sit by a window. Open the curtains, pull up the shades, and spend time in the sunniest room in the house.
Some people might be helped by special “light therapy boxes.” Talk with your doctor about whether you should try one of these devices.
2. Eat foods containing tryptophan.
Many who suffer from seasonal depression may experience decreased levels of serotonin, the brain’s neurotransmitter. Tryptophan is an amino acid known to be a precursor of serotonin, so eating foods that contain it may increase your body’s production of serotonin, thus making you feel better. Foods rich in tryptophan include turkey, spinach, bananas, seafood, milk, and egg whites.
3. Limit alcohol and caffeine.
Alcohol is a depressant that can lower your mood, and caffeine usually leaves you anxious. They might make you feel better short-term but these can lead to mood swings that can deepen your depression.
4. Get moving.
Getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat is a sure way to raise serotonin and endorphin levels – this is especially beneficial if you do it in the morning. Even better, exercise in the sun or near a sunny window.
You can also keep your body’s clock in sync by rising and retiring at the same time each day, even on weekends or days off from work.
5. Use essential oils.
Essential oils can be powerful mood-lifters and are perfect to help combat the winter blues and re-energize you, especially when combined with the above treatments. This is the time of year to use your citrus essential oils.
Here are some of the ways I like to use these uplifting oils:
- Diffuse them in the air.
- Add them to my bath water.
- Rub them on the bottom of my feet.
- Put 2-3 drops in my hands and rub them together, cup my hands over my nose and b r e a t h e d e e p l y!
- Put 3-4 drops in my water bottle.
Other easy ways to add citrus oils to your daily routine are adding a drop or two to your dish water when you are washing dishes, keeping a citrus oil in your purse to use as a hand-sanitizer (they are powerful natural germ killers), mixing a few drops of lemon, lime, grapefruit or sweet orange with water in a glass spray bottle and using it to clean and sanitize surfaces or spray in the air to neutralize odors.
Be sure to seek guidance from a professional if the feelings of depression become overwhelming. If they are not severe, however, some of the natural home remedies listed above may provide some welcome relief over the next couple of months!
What do you do to help ease the “winter blues?