Saturday, February 9, 2013

Keeping the Blues Away This Winter: Guest Post

Good morning!  The wonderful Tracy Rose, with, contacted me to see what kind of post my readers may need or enjoy regarding health issues.  With the constant glow behind me of my co-worker's Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp, I figured there are quite a few of us who need advice on conquering the winter blues.  Enjoy!  

Everyone hits bottom some days. But depression is different. Everything seems to come to a stop. Nothing makes you feel good, or even normal. You stop enjoying the little things - and the big things. You have no energy, no motivation, no care for the details of daily existence. Everything makes you sad.

It may not be too surprising that depression is more prevalent during winter months. In fact, there's a whole medical category for repeat episodes of wintertime depression: seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. But what accounts for this peak? Well, the lousy weather and cold certainly don't help. But the real answer is all about light. Some of us are more sensitive to it than others and, generally speaking, the less of it we get each day, the more likely we are to slide into depression.

But seasonal depression isn't inevitable, even if you're susceptible to it. There are a number of concrete steps you can take to avoid the wintertime blues.

1. Get Enough Light
Make sure you get as much sunlight as possible each day, especially in the morning. When you're at home, sit near the window and keep the blinds up. Otherwise, stay outside as much as you can. If you're prone to SAD or other forms of winter depression, you may want to go even further and get a light box. These devices can be costly (depending on the model), but for many people they work better than medication at preventing relapses into seasonal depression.

2. Exercise
Regular exercise is a proven way to fight off depression any time of year. It's recommended for almost everyone who suffers from the condition. It doesn't have to be extreme - walks are a good place to start - as long as it gets your blood pumping. Try to exercise outdoors when you can.

3. Eat Right
It's important to keep a well-balanced diet year-round, but especially during the winter. Low levels of vitamin D may contribute to depression in the winter, so eat foods that contain a lot of it, including fish, fortified dairy products and eggs. Eat from all the healthy food groups: dairy, fruit, vegetables, meats and grains. Get all your recommended nutrients.

4. Sleep Well
Disrupted sleep cycles and insomnia are among the biggest problems for people who suffer from depression. A big step in preventing this is making sure you stick to a regular sleep routine. Go to sleep at the same time, get up at the same time. Observe sleep hygiene: Don't watch TV in bed, don't drink coffee after 2 or 3 p.m., use your bed only for sleeping and sex. Never use alcohol to sleep. The right sleep habits can keep winter depression from getting its foot in the door.

5. Stay Busy
Get involved in things you enjoy, hang out with people you like, spend time with family. Do whatever it is that keeps you active and happy. You may have to kick yourself in the pants during the winter to keep going, but it will help keep you from slipping into the seasonal blues. It's tempting to spend winter indoors, bundled up in front of the tube, but too much of that is a recipe for depression.

6. Coordinate with Your Doctor
If you already have a history of depression, prepare before the season arrives. Talk with your doctor and make sure you have a plan in place to counteract early signs of trouble. If depression does occur, make sure you know how to react and nip it in the bud so it doesn't last all season long. Medication options, therapy plans, these things can be mapped out in advance to give you a fighting chance to keep your winter happy and bright.
No one wants winter depression. The sadness, the loss of energy, the inability to enjoy life can be unbearable, and the snow, cold and endless nights don't help. But these six easy steps make easier to avoid the impact of the seasonal blues and keep your new year going strong.

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