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Coping With SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder

Coping With SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder

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If you're feeling down in the dumps this winter, it could be SAD, seasonal affective disorder, caused by the lack of adequate sunshine. Try out these 8 tips to help you cope until spring arrives.

If you're feeling down in the dumps this winter, it could be SAD, seasonal affective disorder, caused by the lack of adequate sunshine. Try out these 8 tips to help you cope until spring arrives.

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Published by: Rosemary Lichtman Phyllis Goldberg on Jan 18, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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If You Have the Blues in Winter, it Can be SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder 
By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph. D.Winter weather, for most in the Northern Hemisphere, is cold, dark and dreary -with little chance of a break for several months. The transition back from theholiday season with its increased activity and social engagement - parties, giftgiving, family time, vacations - can be an emotional letdown, bringing on theJanuary blues. For some 10% of Americans, depression is exacerbated by"SAD," Seasonal Affective Disorder, triggered by the reduction in sunlight and thebrain's response to this underexposure.Sandwiched boomers may feel an even greater strain, with the extra pressures of caring for growing children and aging parents. If you think that you might haveSAD, consult your physician for an evaluation. A diagnosis can be made whenyour mood, energy level and motivation are all down during the winter months.You may be sleeping and eating more than usual, craving carbohydrates - thiscan lead to weight gain, which is depressing in itself.Both our genetic predispositions and life scripts color how we cope withchallenges. For these reasons, some people are more prone to SAD. Womenhave higher rates than men, making up over two-thirds of those diagnosed. If youare looking for strategies to help you cope with this disorder, here are 8 tips toget you started.
1. Get out in the sun, preferably for at least one hour a day.
Even if it's cold,bundle up and go for a walk during your lunch hour. Studies have shown thateven 20 minutes of exercise can lighten your mood for two hours. Remember thefun you had as a kid playing in the snow? You can still enjoy winter activities likeice skating or skiing. If you live in a warm climate, participate in your usualoutdoor exercise - jogging, biking, golf, hiking. And find a buddy to help you staymotivated.
2. Keep your home window coverings open to the light and your office welllit.
A small heliostat, a computer-controlled mirror device, can increase theamount of direct sunlight reflected into the room. The more daylight youexperience, the more your brain cells produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter thatcontributes to feelings of wellbeing.
3. Your physician may prescribe phototherapy using a special light box,typically during daytime hours.
It filters out most damaging UV rays, and thelight shining on the retina inhibits the production of the sleep regulating hormonemelatonin. A newer type of light therapy relies on LED technology - they'resmaller and easier to use.
4. If your despair continues or you have the signs of clinical depression,
see a psychologist or psychiatrist for treatment.
You will benefit from aprofessional's input as you learn to challenge your negative thoughts and gainskills to manage your feelings. Your doctor can discuss with you whether antidepressants will be of assistance in your treatment plan.
5. Consider whether your expectations for 2011 are unrealistic.
Perhapsyour personal New Year's resolutions are causing excessive pressure. Or your work supervisor is creating overly ambitious long-term goals and short-termobjectives for you. While high standards may be an effective motivator for change, remember to be honest in evaluating your challenges, resources andstrengths.
6. You can have more control over how you feel.
When you change your thoughts from negative to positive, notice the shift in your emotions Attitudechange is an important salve for the blues. Decide to spend less time worryingand more counting your blessings. Commit to healthier eating and more exercise.These have a double positive effect - you'll feel better physically as well aspsychologically, knowing that you can take charge of your behavior and developresiliency.
7. Incorporate personal stress relievers into your daily life.
Does listening tomusic, reading a good book, spending time with friends help you relax?Whatever works, make it a priority in your schedule. Deep breathing, meditation,a spiritual practice or yoga can ground you and provide balance. When you'refeeling relaxed you'll be better able to cope with the hassles you face this winter.
8. Ask for support from friends and family.
Call on your social network for help as well as connection. If you're a sandwiched boomer, this might includegetting some relief for childcare or eldercare responsibilities. Sharing your concerns can validate your feelings and give you a different viewpoint. You canalso join a support group for new insight and perspective. And don't forget tospend time with friends just for the plain fun of it - laughter is a great tensionreliever and can improve feelings of wellbeing.You'll find that when you're feeling more optimistic about your ability to change,you can brainstorm and develop better solutions. With a more positive outlook,you'll use your innate abilities and personal strengths to move forward. Andremember, no matter what the groundhog predicts, soon spring will be here withits longer daylight hours and brighter moods.© 2011, Her Mentor Center Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are family relationshipexperts who have developed a 4-step model for change. If you are coping withacting-out teenagers, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law,we have the solutions that make family rifts disappear. Visit our website,

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