Retreat To Spirit: Seasonal Affective Disorder



As we prepare for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we look forward to spending time with friends and family and eating good food. But for many, this time is not one of celebration; indeed, it can be a challenging moment to navigate, with the shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather. "While these feelings may be temporary for some, around one in three people consistently struggle through the autumn and winter months with a type of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (https://theconversation.com/seasonal-depression-why-it-happens-and-how-to-manage-the-symptoms-171257)" People with SAD experience mental and emotional challenges similar to depression. "[SAD] is a form of depression also known as SAD, seasonal depression or winter depression. In the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), this disorder is identified as a type of depression – Major Depressive Disorder with Seasonal Pattern" (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder). Therefore, SAD is much more than catching the "winter blues."

SAD can look like a lack of interest in things you once loved, a cynical outlook on life, negative thinking, fatigue, loss of appetite, hopelessness, increased appetite, feelings of doom and gloom, just not feeling like yourself, crying for no known reason, mood swings and more. It can show up subtle or significantly impact your life and affect your relationship with yourself and others. If you feel you may be experiencing SAD, it's best to seek a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis and to discuss how to manage your symptoms. Many people are using holistic practices like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and more. You can also purchase a type of lamp that emits light frequencies the brain needs for emotional wellness. If you have a loved one struggling with SAD, it's best to be compassionate, empathetic, patient, and supportive with them as they find the best ways to work through it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of the population will be diagnosed with a mental health condition during their lifetime. And 1 out of every 5 American adults will experience mental illness in a given year, while 1 in 25 live with a serious mental condition such as major depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. (https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/keys-to-fmla-ada-compliance-for-mental-health-are-communication-flexibility.aspx)

Society is beginning to normalize mental health days, and the stigmas associated with mental health disorders are falling away with more mental health education and employer support in the workplace. Some employers recognize that the increased demand on people and long hours are causing burnout, triggering mental health impairment and other health-related issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines a mental health impairment as a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others, and daily functioning. Such impairments often result in a diminished capacity to cope with the ordinary demands of life. That means employers must navigate both the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to help employees manage their mental health. The best thing to do is familiarize yourself with this information and know your rights in the workplace.

Although it's not known how SAD happens, much of the research points to centers in the brain, lack of sleep, and lack of natural sunlight.

Here are a few tips to help with anxiety or sadness this season:

  1. Get outside and go for a walk. Walking outdoors will allow you to get some natural sunlight and Vitamin D which helps with hormone regulation, immune system regulation, and sleep.

  2. Create a hobby. Start knitting or join a book club.

  3. Find a talk therapist. A good therapist is an objective voice that you can share challenging thoughts and emotions.

  4. Get enough quality sleep. During the changing seasons and the time and sunlight adjustment, our circadian rhythm - our internal time clock for the sleep/wake cycle - is often disrupted. This causes less quality sleep, particularly the deep stages 4 and 5 (REM - rapid eye movement) sleep we all need to feel rested.

  5. Practice yoga and mindfulness.

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