By Brian Coatney and Anne Stahl
“Why does it feel so late?” It’s gloomily dark outside, and it’s only 6 p.m. Not only is it darker, but it’s colder and cloudier. For some people, the lack of sunlight and cold weather can lead to SAD — seasonal affective disorder — also known as the winter blues.
When there is less sunlight, the body produces less of the feel-good chemical serotonin. The customary time change, known as daylight saving, throws off the body’s clock as well. Seasonal affective disorder can lead to depression, irritability, fatigue and more undesirable feelings, but take heart, the conscientious combatant can overcome. Here are tips for overcoming the winter blues.
1. Go outside. Get some fresh air and enough sunlight as possible during the day.
2. Keep an active, face-to-face social life.
3. Keep your mind engaged. Read a new book or work puzzles.
4. Get out there and help others with volunteer work.
5. Take art or music lessons, attend concerts, play bridge, journal or blog.
6. Take short weekend vacations.
Around the house
1. When inside, sit close to a sunlamp, which produces more light than ordinary blub.
2. Keep the same routine. Don’t lapse into lounging at home in your pajamas during the wintertime.
3. Keep putting on makeup, doing your hair and getting dressed.
4. Dress in brightly colored clothing. Avoid heavy black, gray or dark brown outfits.
5. Keep the house clean. It can be depressing when stuff piles up and gets dusty.
Nutrition and remedies
1. Eat a good breakfast.
2. Take a multivitamin.
3. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, which has vitamin C.
4. Get a little bottle of peppermint oil. Inhaling peppermint oil can release feel-good hormones and relieve a variety of aches and pains.
5. Find recipes for cooking with chili peppers. They release capsaicin, which is a stimulant and energy booster.
6. Try ginger tea, which is good for the metabolism and can assist weight loss.
7. Try a ginkgo biloba supplement. Some studies say it stimulates the brain and increases alertness.
1. Consider joining a gym.
2. Look into some safe, at-home exercise routines.
3. Try deep breathing techniques. Deep breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain and helps release useful hormones.
4. Get up and move around. Walk and stand more during the day. Small amounts of movement add up over time.
1. Don’t focus on sweets and high-carb, comfort foods. Research shows sugar is a “downer” and depressant.
2. Avoid binge drinking. It’s tempting to hang out in pubs and drink more, but alcohol is also a depressant.
3. Keep inertia from getting the victory. Force yourself to get up and get out to fight seasonal affective disorder.
4. Don’t get impatient or think you are suffering alone. Others feel the same way. Remember the old saying, “This too shall pass.”
Anne Stahl is a psychology professor at Hopkinsville Community College. Besides classroom instruction, Stahl has experience in guidance counseling and public relations. She is also a board member for the Pennyroyal Mental Health Center.