Could be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Well it’s the fall, and that means cool breezes, lots of holiday preparation and celebrations, and depending on where you are, snow. This time of the year should be super awesome and exciting. However, for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) it can be a time where they struggle with depression and feelings of sadness. Instead of feeling joy and anticipation, they feel this sense of dread and sluggishness and often fear and/or dread being put in social settings (like in a gym).

What is SAD?

SAD occurs seasonally, year after year, normally either in the fall or winter. When SAD sets in, suffers report slowing “fall” into a depressive state. I’m not talking about the blues here, everyone gets the blues now and then, SAD is a little bit more involved.

Those who study SAD still don’t know the exact cause of it. But there seems to be some common factors that play off of each other to reveal the culprit behind why people suffer from SAD. The offending party seems to be linked to sunlight. Yes, sunlight. Those who suffer from SAD don’t seem to get enough sunlight. There are three reasons researchers believe a lack of sunlight is the culprit.

  1. Melatonin. Melatonin affects your mood and your sleep. It’s a hormone that is partially regulated by the sunlight. As such, in the fall and winter, when there is less sunlight your melatonin, goes up and down. As a result your mood will go up and down as well.
  2. Serotonin. Likewise when the sunlight drops it affects your serotonin levels. This chemical helps give you a feeling of well-being. Not having enough serotonin will also cause your mood to fall and your happiness to decrease :-(.
  3. Internal clock. Some researchers hypothesize that because the sun light is decreased this disturbs your normal rhythms cycles of wakefulness and sleepiness. As a result you feel depressed and down.

What are the symptoms of SAD?

A feeling of sadness or depression.

You struggle to get out of bed and feel drowsy throughout the day. As a result you go to bed early or at the very least want to go to bed early and have a difficult time functioning in the late afternoons and evenings. You feel as if you can NEVER get enough sleep. On a personal note, I seem to always suffer from this symptom starting in mid November, but not this year…I hope : ).

Your ability to concentrate also suffers. This often affects your productivity when trying to work

at home and at work. Plus, you have the added “benefit” of not having enough energy to get things done. What does this lead to? More frustration and more feelings of depression.

If the above doesn’t seem great enough already….You will also likely notice weight gain. Most of those who suffer from SAD seem to crave foods that are high in carbohydrates (carbs break down into sugar) and this surplus of carbs can easily lead to a gain in 9 to 30 pounds a year. Which is NOT awesome.

The chances are, your social life will suffer as well. When you get depressed, generally you just don’t enjoy hanging around others as much as you normally do. Which is cyclical, this feeling of withdrawing from social events just creates more feelings of sadness and depression, it makes the cycle tighter and more intense.

How to break out of a SAD state.

The good news, if you are affected by SAD there are many options. You should look through these and choose one or two that you think would work best for you. Give it a test drive over the course of a week and if it works, KEEP doing it! If not, try something else.

  • The first is exercise. If you’re one of my clients who actively trains with me chances are, you’re already doing everything you should be doing regarding exercise. The reason exercise works so well is because it increases your endorphins. These chemicals release “good feeling chemicals” into your body. These chemicals help you feel happy, confident and give you an overall sense of well-being. The reason endorphins are so powerful is they give comparable feelings to hit of morphine or heroin. Yep, that is right, I am a “Drug Dealer”  and congratulations you’re addicted to me. Who knew? But the kicker is to feel this “Awesomeness” you need to workout for at least 30 minutes, no problem right :-).
  • Another option is Dawn Simulators. So, unlike during the spring months or other times of the year when there’s light at dawn and dusk and the change is very gradual, in the winter months, there’s a much quicker light chance. The researchers believe this is one of the reasons SAD exists. In short, dawn simulator are appliances that can be programmed much like an alarm clock. They gradually brighten your room each morning before you wake. There are many reports where those who suffer from SAD had great success with simply using dawn simulators in their rooms.
  • Vitamin D3 the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because your body will produce 10,000 to 50,000 units of vitamin E just by spending 20 to 30 minutes in sunlight. This is important because vitamin D plays an important role in supporting a healthy heart, regenerating your cells, it helps your immune system, it lifts your mood, and so much more. The point is, vitamin D is essential for many functions in your body. And if the problem is you’re not getting enough sunlight this can be an easy, quick fix.
  • Light therapy. The figure that I found is, up to 85% of those who suffer from depression specifically in the winter, simply need to sit under a therapy light. Yes, you heard that right, you need to sit under a therapy light. The idea is these bright lights stabilize the chemicals in your body that are out of balance, like what I talked about above. This light will help you feel less depressed and more like yourself. The best lights that you want to buy are between 2500 and 10000 lux. Whatever a lux is :-).

Here’s the thing, if you suffer from SAD or you think you’re suffering some from SAD you’re not alone. Me personally, I always seem to get down about mid-November through mid-January. I struggle to sleep and I never have enough energy and that’s happened to me for over the last 5 years. I don’t know if I would say I get depressed, but I do kind of get a little down and anxious.

That being said, with the new information that I researched I hope that I can alleviate that and fix it this year : -). Better yet, I hope if you suffer from SAD this will help you gain more sleep and feel more rested and hopefully break the cycle as well. Please experiment with some of the treatment options above and if I don’t train you, if you don’t exercise, start that immediately. Exercise seems to get people the biggest bang for their buck. Plus, before you know it, the days are going to be lengthening out again and we’re gonna get some sunlight, worse case scenario, there is light at the end of the tunnel (that’s is a good pun, I don’t care who you are : ).


Now go be awesome!

KELLEN LAKE – Preparing for the sunpocalypse.

PS – If you suffer from depression or SAD try a free session of exercise with me at Just You Fitness Winston-Salem, it could be the cure to break the cycle….Plus, you will get to avoid being in a large social setting. You will get to train in a completely private setting no need to worry, you can just be yourself by yourself :-).

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