Are You Feeling SAD? You Are Not Alone

The time between New Year’s and spring is not my favorite time of year. Valentine’s Day is nice, but my deep appreciation of eating chocolate hearts is short lived.

This time of year always feels dull and lifeless.  What’s makes it worse is the “Polar Vortex” we’re currently experiencing around the country

Daylight is shorter and temperatures are colder.

Many people may feel sad or depressed.  If you are feeling this way, don’t worry. You are not alone.  You may have what’s known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

According to an article from Psychology Today, SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, and another 10 – 20 percent may have mild SAD.1

SAD is a response in the changes in natural sunlight that occur during the winter months.  I feel it – big time – every December like clockwork. When the days get shorter I feel sadder. I miss the warm sunshine and the long days of spending time outside enjoying daylight after dinner.

Years ago, I used to hate driving in the dark at 4:30 in the afternoon to pick my son up from whatever after-school activities he had.  I felt lethargic and depressed, and no matter what I did (meditation, reading, yoga) I couldn’t shake it.  I wanted to stay indoors and hide under my blanket until the first signs of spring.

Until one day a friend of mine mentioned something about light therapy.

Light therapy boxes mimic the light of the sun.  Researchers believe that by using this therapy 30 minutes a day it can lighten someone’s mood by causing a chemical change in the brain.

Today there is a wider selection of light boxes that are sold over the counter.  Order one online, or consult with your doctor for a recommendation.

Before buying, consider these points from The Mayo Clinic:

  • Is the light box specifically made for SAD?
  • How bright is it?
  • How much UV light does it release?
  • Does it use LED’s? (Light Emitting Diodes)
  • Does it emit blue light? (Blue light has a short wavelength)
  • Can it cause eye damage?
  • Is it the style you need?
  • Can you put it in the right location?
  • Does your doctor recommend it?

I used one for a short time (I must have purchased a less expensive one because it quickly broke and I never replaced it) and I had positive results.

I recently read an article written by Sheryl Kraft about SAD and the connection between it and jet lag.  Like jet lag, SAD has something to do with our sleep/wake cycle, leaving us feeling as if we traveled through several time zones. Our cycles become out of sync, making us feel out of sorts.

Like MS, not every person with SAD has it in the same way.  It can leave us:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, hopeless, pessimistic or fatigued
  • Feeling guilty, being worthless or helpless, irritable or restless
  • Losing interest or pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
  • Having difficulty sleeping or begin oversleeping
  • Having changes in weight
  • Find it difficult to concentrate, have cognitive difficulties or difficulties making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Nearly half of the people with SAD do not respond to light therapy, and if you are one of them, it may be wise to consult with a trained medical professional for a proper evaluation, because many times SAD is misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, infectious mononucleosis or another viral infection.

You may also want to look at 4 clinical trials that are currently listed on ClinicalTrials.gov, with the studies about genes and more about light therapy.

No matter what you decide to do, help is out there.  Talk to your doctor, and reach out to others through MultipleSclerosis.net

 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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