Are you feeling sad, irritable, or extra tired right now? Have you noticed that you feel this way every time Fall rolls around and the leaves start to drift onto the lawn and days start to get shorter? You may have Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Remember that all psychological conditions occur on a continuum and are changeable. You may have just a little bit of feeling down, or you may find it impossible to get out of bed! However it hits you, if it does, there are some things you can do to make yourself feel better.
First of all, educate yourself about SAD. It's a real condition, caused by an impact on our circadian rhythms due to the change in sunlight (something similar can occur for shift workers who are always awake during the dark and sleeping during the daylight hours). We are animals, naturally attuned to the seasons that we live in. There's nothing surprising about having some feelings of depression in the Fall. Our bodies are gearing down for the Winter, expecting to spend a lot of time sleeping and conserving energy. Except we aren't cave-men and cave-women any more and we still have to get up and go about our lives! (Thanks, lightbulbs!)
Secondly, keep moving! Schedule exercise into your day and get support for doing it. Get a buddy who will help encourage you to do it. Reward yourself. Research has proven that exercise is right up there with medication in terms of helping depression. It doesn't have to be a marathon. A half hour walk will do it. So, walk to the coffee shop and reward yourself with a nice cup of coffee (caffeine helps too).
Third, get a little extra sunshine. There are two really good tools for this. One is a light box that you look directly into for about 15 minutes a day. Another is a sunlight simulation alarm that is creates an artificial sunrise in your bedroom when it is time to wake up. It's particularly helpful for people who have to get up before the natural light comes in the window. I have both of these and they are worth the money! Or, maybe a trip to a tropical island?
Fourth, go see a therapist. Of course you knew that was coming! (smile)
Finally, get medication if you need it. You can take it for a short period of time to get through the season change. Other great options are homeopathy (my favorite) or naturopathic solutions.
Hang On. Everything changes. Enjoy what you can out of this time of year: the beautiful colors, the crisp leaves underfoot, breaking out those warm sweaters and boots. And enjoy those Saturday mornings when you can snuggle in your warm bed a little longer.
(photo by Alycia Hendrickson)