It actually happened. The rain came back to the Pacific NW and the glorious summer of 2012 is a happy memory. Hopefully you got your fill of vitamin D because unless you have a Caribbean cruise scheduled for the winter-time you may start to feel the effects of the cold, wet rainy season in the form of the seasonal blues. The good news is that you have many options available to combat feelings of fatigue, low interest, sadness and lack of motivation, and many of them are free or inexpensive; however, the catch is that you need to start with the desire to improve your mental disposition and then actually do the work required to save yourself from the doldrums. Here are your tools:
Clock-watching: The daylight hours are waning and on most days it’s hard to tell whether it’s 7am or 7pm, interfering with your ability to fall asleep and wake up according to your daily schedule. Become a clock-watcher for the period of time it takes to adjust to the changing weather and daylight patterns rather than wait until you feel tired, as this may lead you to feel groggy from too little or too much sleep. Either avoid or take part in stimulating activity depending on whether you need to delay sleep or get to bed earlier, and rely on the clock until your internal biorhythm has adequately adapted to the seasonal changes in light and temperature.
Cut the excess: Eating anything in excess will make you feel sluggish and irritated, so be watchful of how much of one particular food you are eating, as well as how much food overall you consume throughout the day. This seems a tried and trite reminder, but even carrots will give you diarrhea if you eat more than your body can process appropriately at one time! A cookie at lunch may actually improve your mood and help to stabilize your insulin levels if it is combined with a balance of other healthy foods. Do your best to consume carbohydrate, fat and protein at every meal, and in just the right amounts to satisfy your hunger and contribute to a sense of well-being.
Maximize the ‘D’: Living in the Portland/SW Washington area ensures that your sun exposure drops dramatically from fall to spring. Sunlight is an ideal catalyst for vitamin D production, so get outside for a daily walk, leaving some skin exposed without sunscreen. Planning a weekend getaway to a sunny locale, eating vitamin D-rich foods such as wild salmon, sardines and eggs, and getting your vitamin D levels tested before supplementing are all good ways of preventing low levels of vitamin D. While adequate vitamin D levels alone won’t keep a dark mood away, adopting healthy habits to obtain enough of this vitamin offers wide-ranging health benefits.
Socialization: Wallowing in your own self-deprecation may be satisfying in the short-term, but over time you may be heading towards depression if your time alone becomes a never-ending pity party. Checking in with friends and family on a regular basis is important because the people in your life love you and want to know how you are doing. This is not to say that you should use others as a crutch to get you through your day, but finding the balance between ‘time alone’ and ‘time you are actively engaging with other human beings’ contributes to quality of life as well as longevity. If you find that your list of people to contact is on the low side, start by saying hello to your next-door neighbor. He or she may also be looking for an opportunity to start a conversation that may provide just the right mood-boosting stimulus to bring a genuine smile to your face.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, and other mood disorders need not interfere with daily activities of life; however, if you have made the appropriate lifestyle changes and still feel unwell, contact a health professional to learn more about your treatment options. In the Portland area, the Portland Mood Disorders Clinic offers information, advice, and treatment for SAD and other mood disorders, and as a part of the Portland Psychotherapy practice offers classes to deal with the winter blues. For a listing of Naturopathic physicians who specialize in depression and anxiety disorders, see the Naturopaths Directory and look for a health professional whose background and personal philosophy most appeals to you. There’s nothing funny about sadness, but your mental disposition will improve when you’re able to laugh at your trials and tribulations while appreciating that in life some rain must fall in order to appreciate the next sunny day.