8 Ways to Beat SAD:Seasonal Affective Disorder

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The days are now shorter, colder and darker. This trilogy can lead to a certain mood disorder know as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, also known as the “winter blues”. Many people, and I think I’m one of them, suffer from this mood disorder, which can lead to depression if not recognized and treated. Symptoms of SAD typically start in late fall and can last throughout the winter.

Some of the symptoms of S.A.D. include:

  • Irritability
  • Poor Concentration
  • Decreased interest in activities, social events
  • Decreased Energy
  • Altered sleep patterns (generally oversleeping)
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased Libido

If this sounds like you, don’t worry, know that it is real and you are not alone. It affects about 10 million Americans a year. Although the exact mechanism is not well known, several theories exist around the lack of natural sunlight, including:

  • Lack of light alters our circadian rhythm
  • Lack of light alters serotonin levels (decreases), a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood
  • Lack of light affects melatonin levels (increases), a hormone that regulates your sleep

The good news is that there are many things you can do to relieve these symptoms. Like many illnesses or disorders, mind over matter is key to taking an active roll in healing.

Here are a few ways to treat SAD and lift your mood:

  • LIGHT. Every chance you get, go outside! Soak up all the sunlight you can. But even if its not sunny, go outside anyway,and soak up the energy that abounds, on the earth, in the stars, from the moon, and in the wind. Like many people, when I go to work in the winter, it is dark in the morning, & it is dark when I get out of work. So, on weekends, I take long walks on the beach with my dog, Rocky, and immerse myself in nature. I swear it changes me. If you can’t get outside, light boxes can transform your inside environment and hopefully your mood
  • Reduce stress. During the winter months, people with SAD have a reduced ability to handle stress. I recommend you do whatever it takes to reduce stress.
  • Meditation – scientifically proven to reduce stress
  • Yoga – ditto for Yoga. Sign up for a class. Go regularly. The routine and the community keep your spirits high
  • Exercise regularly
  • Watch your diet. While people with SAD are more likely to crave sweets and simple carbohydrates, these meals will likely exacerbate symptoms of SAD – sluggish, overweight & inactive. Choose a diet high in protein, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.
  • Turn up the tunes. Research shows that listening to upbeat or cheery music significantly improves mood in the short and long term.
  • Plan a vacation. The simple act of planning a vacation has been shown to improve mood.
  • If you have persistent symptoms of depression, speak to a doctor.

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-11-26-56-pmNamaste

The Challenge-What We Learn and How We Grow

The Challenge….complete 21 yoga classes in the month of October. Sounds simple enough, right?

The Cambridge Dictionary definition of Challenge is — something needing great mental or physical effort in order to be done successfully, or the situation of facing this kind of effort. This means different things to different people.

Again and again, I find that what I do on my mat is often a metaphor for what I do or how I am being off the mat.

THIS IS YOGA.

I took on this challenge because I felt my soul calling me back to the yoga studio, a sort of second home filled with loving family. While stepping onto my mat at the studio brings me tremendous joy and peace, the days and even moments getting there were frankly, for me… challenging. My days at work as a cardiologist are challenging in and of themselves, add to that not knowing when the day ends and then traffic in the last moment rush to make a class, spells out …

STRESS.

Then last weekend I was on call and had a “plan” to get in at least one class on the weekend. Then, a  patient having a heart attack is flown in via helicopter and this changes everything.. my plans, my perspective, my definition of challenge. The Challenge … being the best doctor I can be, trying to save a life, fighting (loudly) for everything possible to be done, and accepting the outcomes without

SELF JUDGEMENT.

  The Challenge … finding peace in whatever happens each day, because this does take “mental effort”. Knowing that you did your best and that your best is always enough.

THIS IS YOGA.. Providing us with the tools needed for navigating the challenging course that is life.

In our personal lives, we all have our challenges. Some challenges are clearly less daunting than others but nevertheless, all are real for us at the time, and often result in physiological stress. For me, most of the time, my challenges are small and insignificant and self-imposed… getting up early to run, running a half marathon, getting to the yoga studio, meditating regularly, and being a good doctor. Nothing in comparison to my sister’s daily challenges of raising a family, running a company and dealing with her own health problems. Yet she does it all with grace and determination.

So, the question is not what are your challenges, but how do you respond to them.

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The Challenge is …. to sit quietly and listen to the wisdom that can only come from within.

This past weekend, I had the exact opposite experience of my last weekend. I went to a yoga workshop led by Rolf Gates, globally recognized yoga teacher and author. He talked about how we practice yoga on and off the mat … with an open heart and attention to the present moment. It is these tools that can help us get through the challenging moments in our lives.

The Challenge is …. Allowing. Allowing life to unfold as it will.

The Challenge is …. Accepting. Accepting Life as it is in the moment, being present in it, and being your best You.

The Challenge is … Not what you do, But How you do it.

And yes, I did complete the 21 days! On to the next challenge.

Namaste