by Julie Snyder
There's a cool, crispness in the air as the leaves change into their beautiful fall colors. Although everything around you is glorious, your mood may not be the same. Your happiness scale drops as the days shorten.
Do you suffer from depression that only seems to appear during the winter months? For many of us, the shorter, darker days mean fatigue, oversleeping and feeling subdued or in some cases, melancholy. It's not uncommon to lose interest in activities, crave carbohydrates or have trouble concentrating.
The wintertime blues are also called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. It affects an estimated 35 million Americans. At least 10 million experience a serious disruption in their lives.
Open the curtains and let the light it in. It can brighten your mood and help with depression. You can find relief from SAD's symptoms with artificial light.
SAD lamps: "Clinicians have used bright light therapy to successfully treat seasonal affective disorder. It has far fewer side effects than medications and can provide relief within days," Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC and health psychologist says.
Which light's best and for how long? Lights with intensities of 10,000 lux, with 30 to 40 minutes of exposure, appear most effective. You can read, watch TV, work at your computer or work on crafts while sitting in front of your lamp. An analysis of 25 different studies found that morning light exposure seems most effective. Because light early in the day is effect, a new therapy, dawn stimulation has been added to the list of possible treatments.
Dawn simulation refers to a light that comes on before you awake. It gradually grows brighter over a period of 15 to 90 minutes, mimicking a springtime sunrise. If you're a new mom or mother of young children, this may be a more practical alternative for treating SAD.
Vitamin D: vitamin D helps boost mood, the immune system and heart health. With winter darkness and warm, winter clothing, chances are you're "D"-prived. Ask your midwife or doctor if you should be taking a supplement.
John Stracks, MD, from Northwestern Integrative Medicine encourages those who believe they suffer from SAD to see a doctor to determine appropriate therapies and treatment, he also recommends alternative approaches that anyone can do to keep their mood balanced throughout time of year.
✓ Sleep consistently. Try to wake up at the time same each day to keep your body’s internal clock in sync.
✓ Be in the light. Open your blinds at home, enjoy a walk in the sunshine and make sure your work space has natural or bright light.
✓ Curb those cravings. Eat a balanced diet. Excess carbs may provide a short-term energy boost but actually can leave you feeling worse later in the day.
✓ Get moving. Exercise helps relieve the stress and anxiety that can increase the symptoms of SAD. Pregnancy yoga and Pilates classes relax and rev you at the same time.
✓ Learn to manage stress. Take time for yourself each day.
Are you pregnant and SAD? Don't let the dark winter months put a damper on your pregnancy. Treat the wintertime blues before they get bad.
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.