Seasonal Affective Disorder
Honoring the Seasons
For over 20 years I’ve heard people talk about how they do not like the Winter Months. They seem to feel more “tired,” not social, or even express feeling “depressed.” I experienced these feelings for several years myself.
In 2009 I began to study Holistic Nutrition and learned more about seasonal foods. What struck out most in my mind was learning about our individual bodies and how they respond to the different seasons. I also learned about historically, when people lived on farms, they worked and lived according to what nature presented.
People worked more during the Spring and Summer, when our days lasted longer. During Fall and the Winter months, people worked during the “light of day,” when weather permitted.
As we have “progressed” as a society, life has changed. More people live in cities, we have access to power (most of the time) 24 hours a day, every day. We are also living in a time of rapid technological advances and have access through social media, cell phones, etc any time that we want.
Progress is great. As much as we have adapted as a society however, has our bodies adapted to leading a less seasonal lifestyle? My thoughts are, perhaps not. I say “perhaps,” as I’m sure there are people out there who would say, “I’ve adapted fine!” I eat what I want, when and even party all night and function perfectly.” That’s fantastic, then this may not be for you. For all others, please read on.
I would argue that many of us are still living a seasonal lifestyle, internally. Meaning our bodies still flow with the rhythms of the seasons. How can one know? Here are a few questions.
Are you more upbeat during the Spring and Summer. Do you feel happier during the sunshine and that happiness even lasts during the evening hours? When the season begins to change, the daylight decreases, then it gets colder, what are you experiencing? Are you tired more? Do you feel more cranky, not want to be around others? Do you have feelings of sadness, maybe wondering if you’re depressed?
If so, you could possibly be experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder which is the term professionals and many people use to describe feeling sad/depressed during the “Winter” months. It’s a very real experience.
One thing I learned during the years of professional studies and personal exploration is to listen, listen to the body’s cues. A few years ago during a particularly stressful time, I decided to cook more of my childhood foods, spend more time inside, rest more and do what I wanted. Honestly, I canceled more events and even invitations to go out. What I noticed was I actually felt better after I got over the guilt of thinking I had become “flaky.”
I began to journal more. I slept more at night. I drank more tea while curled up in blankets. I found as I listened to my body and gave it what it needed, I felt happy, even during the Winter months. My son loves to read so resting as a family is easy for us. The moment I ignored this and forced myself to go out, the more cranky I felt. The pattern became obvious.
During the Fall and Winter, honestly I love to curl up with a book, my cats, even just be at home by myself or my son. I do reach out and talk to friends, even welcome invites to small home-based dinners and events. I’m also honest with the people in my life and tell them how I feel. Most have embraced this and expressed feeling the same way.
Fall is my favorite time of year and I embrace it with true happiness. In the Bay Area we have the sun and the cold, crisp air. I look forward to being at home and relaxing. Because I treat myself to more rest, going out to work isn’t as much of a chore.
I do want to reiterate that Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very real experience. It could be a mild feeling, or it can be something more serious. It does not have to cripple you.
What I would offer are a few quick tips:
- Hydration: Drink plenty of filtered water, alkaline if possible. Herbal teas and organic broths are very warming, nourishing and beneficial to your overall health.
- Nourishment: Look into eating more seasonal foods. During the cooler months soups and hearty stews work well. They are simple to make and are actually cost effective, depending on what you choose.
- Proper supplementation: All vitamin and minerals are key to our overall health and wellness. Food-based supplements are helpful when one is not able to get all their nutrients from actual foods. For the purpose of this article, I emphasize Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, and Omega 3’s as crucial during these times. Vitamin B’s are good overall to balance moods. Vitamin D is helpful when there is not much sun. Omega 3’s are beneficial for brain, heart, and eye health. They are also helpful when it comes for depression and anxiety. *One important note about Omega 3’s is that they are blood thinning and if you are taking any types of blood thinners, PLEASE consult with a qualified health professional before taking them. *
- Rest: It’s crucial to honor your body’s wisdom during this time. Do you really have to go to that party? Do you really need to show your face at that event? Are there days where you can lay down when it’s dark, no matter the time. Rest on the couch or even go to bed a bit early. Yes, it’s even possible with children.
- You: Do what you want to do. Yes, you may have to get up and go to work. What can you prioritize during your off hours? How can you balance self-care with your every day responsibilities? Can you take a bath, read a book, go for a hike, and/or engage in a hobby.
These are just a few suggestion based on years of both personal and professional research. None of this is a requirement, but many holistic healthcare providers, and some mainstream medical providers, have offered these suggestions as prescriptions. This is my way of offering you tips that have helped me personally, people in my nutrition practice, and numerous amount of people I know and have read about.
Important! Please consult with any competent health care provider if you are feeling depressed. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real, and it can also be a symptom of something more serious. If you are currently in treatment, do not discontinue any medications you are currently taking without talking to your healthcare provider. It’s always best to go to a professional than to self-treat.
Thank you for reading!
Tara Christina has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and is a Certified Nutrition Educator. The tips she’s provided in this article are suggestions and not a prescription to treat an illness. If you suspect that you, or a loved one have a medical or psychological illness, please consult with a competent healthcare professional.