Four Ways to Beat SAD … or any other season of sadness.

This is the time of year that many people notice a dip in their mood and overall energy. Some experience this dip in more profound and lasting ways, even to the degree that they might meet the criteria for Seasonal Affective Disorder. This type of depression typically begins in the late fall and continues through until spring on a yearly basis. The same basics apply for SAD as they do for any other season of depression in your life and adopting these strategies can dramatically reduce symptoms.
  1. Eat, sleep, supplement.

    Reduce foods that cause inflammation like grains and and sugar and adopt a food regime that includes healthy fats and focuses on blood sugar stabilization. I often recommend The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman as a good place to start. His 10 day program is an excellent way to begin.

    Join the 10 o’clock club – getting to bed by 10 pm and eliminating screen time for an hour before bed. Keep your room dark, free from all electronics and light if possible.

    Look into supplements that have been well researched to assist with mood stability including Omega 3s, Probiotics, Vitamin D, B vitamins (particularly B6), Tumeric and Saffron. Look for herbal supplements that contain adaptogens to help the body cope with stress including Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, and others.
  2. Move it. 
    It doesn’t feel like the best time to be active but it is the most important time if you’re feeling blue. A daily walk outside, even a home based yoga practice, or a local boot camp will all promote neurogenesis in your brain and help prevent and treat depression and anxiety. Moving vigorously for 20-30 minutes a day can do tremendous things to improve your overall mental and emotional health. It’s the single best thing you can do for brain health as well as physical health both short and long term.
  3. Get help. 
    Build your network. Friends, family, spiritual connections – this is the time to set regular coffee or movie dates with your people. Embrace your tribe because the urge to hermitize at home when it’s cold out and you’re sad can be strong. Hibernation for humans can really exacerbate depression symptoms. We are wired for connection. Keep your connections and ask for support when you need it – even if you don’t feel like it.
  4. Hit the Couch.
    If you are adopting the above recommendations daily and still feeling blue, it’s an excellent time to check out some couch time… although therapy doesn’t usually involve actually lying on the couch like Freud cartoons suggest, psychotherapy can help you through difficult times and increase your resiliency against future stress and sadness. It doesn’t have to be lifelong, but in combination with the above recommendations has been proven more effective with no side effects compared to drug therapy alone. These recommendations will help prevent relapses and assist you in multiple aspects of your life like a long term investment as well.

It’s a good idea whenever you notice mood changes that last beyond an event, for weeks at a  time, or that impact the way you function in your life, to see your doctor and get a check up and some lab work done as well. Vitamin deficiencies like B12, D, iron, and magnesium can mimic the signs of depression and anxiety. A thyroid that is over or under functioning can do the same.
If your lab work checks out, I recommend the above initial steps to my clients, often in conjunction with recommendations from a functional medical doctor, naturopath or homeopath. My clients have reported dramatic improvements, often in less than two weeks, with simple supplementation that often includes 3-5g a day of Omega 3s and 20,000 IU of probiotics in conjunction with weekly or biweekly counselling sessions. Beyond the short term results, these people are laying down pathways for health and resiliency long term with greater chances of preventing SAD from returning in subsequent years.

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