Well, here we are, full-fledge into the 2019 holiday season. Yup, you heard me right—the day after tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the good ole US of A. Thanksgiving is a holiday with a fairly checkered past; but I like to think of it simply as a day to eat yummy food with family and friends and to intentionally be thankful for all of that. Check out my last blog post for some holiday Food Sass® side dish suggestions!
In other news, I’ve engaged in a boatload of podcast discussions this year and will be sharing links to them over time, in case you’re looking for something to listen to while driving or cleaning your house (other than the Audible version of Wild World, Joyful Heart of course!) One such podcast that just went live this week is by my new friend Steve Jordan from sunny California. His podcast, I AM Healthy and Fit, is great and he, like me, guides his clients in working with their all-powerful belief systems. You can check out our conversation HERE.
Mental Health and A Shorter Work Week
Yesterday morning I was at NBC Chicago to chat with the folks there about Microsoft Japan’s summer 2019 pilot with a 4-day workweek. Spoiler alert. Guess what happened? Employees loved it. You may not have expected this part though: the company saw 23% lowered electricity costs, a 40% increase in productivity, and printed 60% fewer pages. Well THAT seems like kind of a no-brainer!
This is an important discussion in the mental health arena, as chronic stress and employee burnout rates are both increasing dramatically. I’ll post the NBC Chicago news clip on my YouTube channel as soon as I receive it. If you subscribe to the channel, you’ll get notified!
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
The last 2 months have found me visiting 12 different cities talking with folks about how to unlock our power to create health and joy, as my first book Wild World, Joyful Heart makes it way out into the world. A subject that’s come up several times recently, as folks in the northern latitudes wade our way into winter, is Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as S.A.D. (apt acronym, for sure!). November is the time that this mental disorder often starts to take hold.
S.A.D. (we’ll call it SAD for this discussion) makes people…well…sad. Depressed, to be exact. It’s a type of depression that comes from the change of seasons and is directly related to the decrease in daytime light hours. Don’t take it lying down! There are things you can do to support yourself in navigating the winter months with less SAD and more joy. Let’s explore.
What Are Symptoms of SAD?
Symptoms of SAD vary from person to person, and even year to year for the same person. Some things to watch out for are:
- Having unusually low energy
- Appetite changes, most especially a craving for empty carbs
- Weight gain
- Sleep is elusive or not effective. Or the proclivity to oversleep.
- Feeling depressed most of the day, on most days
- Not feeling interested in things you normally enjoy
- Having trouble concentrating
- Feeling worthless, hopeless, sluggish, or agitated
- Having suicidal thoughts
If this sounds like you right now, I recommend seeking out the help of a mental health practitioner like a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Running Interference Against SAD
If that doesn’t sound like you right now, but you’ve felt like this in past years fall/winter seasons, then now is the time to run interference! Yes, yes, yes; there are tools, tactics, and approaches that can help you avoid—or at the very least mitigate—having a SAD winter. Here are my Top Five Approaches for avoiding/minimizing SAD:
- Vitamin D. Take adequate supplemental vitamin D. 80-100% of the all-important vitamin D that we need comes from the sun; and we can’t make it in the winter months! Best to get a 25-hydroxy blood test from your doc, knowing that you want your levels to come out between 50-85 ng/ml. If you’re not in that range, supplement 8-10,000 IU’s of vitamin D per day to bring your blood levels up to that optimal range.
- Light Therapy. A therapy lightbox can affect the brain chemicals linked to mood, and research shows that this therapy is most effective if done in the morning.
- Food Sass®! Avoid alcohol, sugar, and empty carbs and amp up your veggies, healthy fats (such as omega-3’s), and make sure you’re getting adequate clean protein.
- Exercise. Move that sweet bod as often as possible. This is a tried and true method of combatting depression and mental health issues of many (all?) kinds. To get more bang for your buck, get the exercise outside during daylight hours or near a window in the gym during daylight hours. That said, ANY exercise at any time of the day is helpful!
- Natural Remedies. St. John’s Wort has proven to be equally effective as medications in treating depression, as it increases serotonin (a happiness neurotransmitter from our brain) in a kind-of back-door way. B-vitamins are also helpful for mood and well-being.
Other approaches that can be helpful are music therapy (think of how good happy or beautiful music can make you feel!) and dawn simulators. The latter is a gismo that gradually brightens your room in the morning like light normally would in the summer months.
SAD Be-Gone…Final Thoughts
Finally, keep engaged with your life! Sitting around the house when it’s dark and cold out can make even a happy person feel a bit blue. Visit with family and friends, hang out with animals, or go to the library or your local bookstore and start researching your summer vacation.
I created a special SAD Be-Gone video just for you, in case you got bored reading and really just want me to give you the highlights. That said, I still suggest fluffing up your attention and giving the prose above another whirl, as it’s more detailed than the video!
Remember, lots and lots and lots of people struggle with mental health issues. If SAD has got you down a bit, or you’ve been bitten by SAD in previous years, commit to engaging in these helpful approaches. If SAD has got you down a lot, please see the appropriate mental health professional. Depression—seasonal or otherwise—is not something to blow off or ignore. There is help to be had!
Create Vibrant Health: BodyMindSpirit®
With love and seasonal Mind Savvy®,