The tranquility and darkness of this time of year can bring us deeply inward. For many, this can be a time of inward quiet and retreat. For others, SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) may show up.
Emotions like sadness, irritability or extra sensitivity can arise within a person, for known or unknown reasons during this season. Personal loss, illness, global tragedy, loneliness, and stress can be triggers, but not necessarily. “I can’t believe how dark it gets here so early”, shared a friend from Portland, OR, who was recently visiting. Interestingly, the dark seems to be the primary spark or trigger to SAD. Biologically, the longer dark nights and shorter days can increase the melatonin (sleep producing hormone) and decrease serotonin (brain chemical that effects our mood). The dark or lack thereof can bring sadness and other symptoms that can look similar to depression, only seasonally. For example – lack of interest in things, isolating, changes in mood, sleep, and appetite, low energy. SAD typically begins in fall and goes through the winter.
Luckily, there are many ways to help you cope with the darkness. Light therapy can be helpful; this may modify the melatonin levels in your body. Exercise! Endorphins are released in your body when you exercise that can trigger positive and energizing feelings. Being outside in nature helps a person feel better too, breathing in the fresh air, listening to the winter birds, smelling the winter smells of evergreens or other natural aromas. Use those creative energies within you! Play music, dance, make some art, write a letter, poem, story, build something with wood, metal….the list goes on and on with possibilities of endless creative ideas!
Socialize! Isolation and loneliness can be detrimental, not only mentally but also physically. Loneliness can impact our immune system, causing us to get sick more often. Being social with others is essential, having folks to talk, share, and laugh with. Laughter can definitely be one of the best medicines! Watch funny movies every once in awhile! Go to local events, get out in the community and find place to gather with others.
Neurological Integration System (NIS) is a healthcare system that can also make a difference in SAD. NIS recognizes in your body hormonal, emotional and neurological circuits that may not be firing correctly, which causes multiple symptoms. If SAD has compromised your immune system, NIS is also helpful for immune system issues. I’ve recently began practicing NIS on Lopez Island and Friday Harbor and am happy to talk with you more about this, if you’re interested.
Also, if you feel like you want a little herbal assistance with SAD during the fall/winter time, St. John’s Wort is a good option to alleviate mild-moderate symptoms. Always check with an herbalist and/or your healthcare practitioner if you have any questions about it, especially if you’re taking a variety of prescription medications. Some have contraindications with St. John’s Wort, but not all. I am happy to answer questions for you.
Take care of yourselves during this dark time!
Health, Happiness, Love and Blessings to you!