Spring is only 3 weeks away, but those of us in the sun-deprived northern hemisphere know that we still have a long ways to go until we get that sunshine back. We also know that the low energy, sad mood, irritability, food cravings and weight gain some of us are suffering through this winter are real. Seasonal Affective Disorder in Chicago Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is reported to effect anywhere from 10 to 20% of the US population and the number of people effected increases the farther north you live. Even if you don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for SAD, I believe most of us here in the Chicago area are effected to some degree by the long, cold, and dark days of our winter. While warmer days may feel far away, remember that you are not alone and that there are ways to stay healthy and happy during these last few winter months.
So with that, lets take a collective deep breath and talk about some strategies we can use today to help us get through the season. Minimizing the Effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Make sure to get your vitamin D. There is so much to say about vitamin D (another article, another day!) but suffice to say that I have yet to find a patient who is not Vitamin D deficient and the effects of this deficiency, including depression and lower immunity, can take a big hit on your day-to-day functioning. If you have not had your levels checked in the past year, include it in your next set of labs so you can make sure you are taking the right dose. In the meantime, most everyone could benefit from adding at least 2,000 UI to your daily vitamin regimen. Be sure to get your Vitamin D with Vitamin K as it will absorb better that way.
Consider purchasing a light box. Research shows that 30 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux is effective in reducing symptoms of SAD. Click here if you are looking for some guidance on what to look for in a light box and how to get the most out of the treatment.
Increase your serotonin levels. Low serotonin is associated with SAD and is thought to be one of the contributing factors. Spending time outdoors during the daytime (even if cloudy) and exercise have both been associated with higher serotonin levels. Go for a walk at lunchtime and get both!
Speaking of lunchtime, remember to include high fiber foods in your meals. Fiber feeds your gut microbiome, which is where most of your serotonin is made. A good probiotic paired with a good diet can ensure those gut bugs are healthy and abundant.
Spend time in a conservatory or green house. Lincoln Park and Garfield are my go-to’s in the city. Sitting in the fern room and soaking up the green moist air is one of my favorite winter treats and is a great way to feel closer to Spring.
Candles. The warm glow of candles in the early morning or at the dinner table can be comforting. Take advantage of the long dark hours; grab a blanket, some hot tea, maybe a journal to reflect, and get cozy by the candlelight.
If severe, SAD does require professional care and medication may be needed for optimal control. Otherwise, give yourself some extra self-care this winter. We will get through to the other side and, hopefully, find joy along the way!
If you want to check your Vitamin D levels or need more individualized guidance regarding diet or nutritional supplementation, use the link below to schedule an appointment today.