BY MICHELLE SMITH
Welcome winter with some house rules for your body. Rules should include routine visits with your physician, consulting with a health advocate, eating right and staying active especially as the season changes. Did you know that between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women? It’s true. If you are a female between fifteen and fifty five, you are more likely to develop S.A.D.
It’s been noted that during the winter months we all tend to get comfortable, let’s remember that those yummy comfort foods help to add those extra winter pounds. As well it has been noted that during the winter they have found higher incidences of S.A.D and depression.
What is S.A.D – Seasonal Affective Disorder? Many people experience seasonal changes in feelings of well-being and in energy, sleep patterns and eating patterns, to a greater or lesser degree generally called the “Winter Blues”. But some people experience powerful changes to the degree that it becomes a form of clinical depression, called Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D).
It has been cited that about 2% to 6% of Canadians will experience S.A.D. in their lifetime. Another 15% will experience a milder form of S.A.D.
Who is at risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder? Women are up to eight times as likely as men to report having S.A.D.
People in northern countries are more likely to experience S.A.D. than those who live closer to the equator because the days get shorter the further north you go.
S.A.D. tends to run in families – most individuals with S.A.D. have at least one close relative with a history of depression.
What are the risk factors/triggers for Seasonal Affective Disorder? A variety of psychological, social and biological factors may contribute to S.A.D. Some known factors are:
- Inherent vulnerability
- Light deprivation
- Biological factors unique to the individual, as well as hormonal changes due to physical conditions
- Early childhood trauma
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
- Oversleeping – sometimes an increase of two to four or more hours per day
- Lethargy (low energy)
- Intense craving for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Withdrawal from social contacts
- Depressed mood occurring over at least two consecutive winters, alternating with non-depressed periods in the spring and summer
What do I need to tell my doctor?
- Write down any symptoms you’ve had
- Write down key personal information
- Make a list of all medications you are taking
- Write down questions to ask your doctor
- Take a family member or friend along
Discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor and describe how they are affecting your life (e.g. sleeping several extra hours per day and missing work/school/appointments). Your doctor can suggest or provide appropriate therapy. Make sure to discuss all of the available treatments and medications and their benefits and side effects before making any decisions.
Other treatment options such as massage therapy, music therapy, meditation, shiatsu, therapeutic touch, aromatherapy or tai chi, Pilates and yoga can also help to improve wellness.
Always remember to:
- Stick to your treatment plan. Don’t skip psychotherapy sessions. Even if you’re
feeling well, continue to take medication as prescribed.
- Learn about S.A.D. Empower yourself by learning about your condition.
- Pay attention to the warning signs. Find out what triggers your S.A.D. Make a plan so that you know what to do if your symptoms get worse. Contact your doctor, therapist or health advocate if you notice any changes. Ask friends or family to watch out for warning signs.
- Get exercise. Physical activity may help reduce the symptoms of S.A.D. Consider walking, jogging, swimming, gardening, or any other physical activity.
- Avoid alcohol and illicit drugs. It may seem like they lessen your problems, but in the long run, they generally worsen symptoms and make S.A.D. harder to treat.
- Get adequate sleep. This is especially important. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about what you can do.
- Maintain an adequate diet. The Canada Food Guide is a useful reference in helping you choose to eat well. Choose more protein and Omega 3. Eat fewer simple carbohydrates, substituting more complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains.
Remember you are the most important part of your health care team. This has been your health check with your Health Care Advocate Michelle Smith