Keeping the Gray Away: tips and tricks for managing Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Allegra Simpkins

The winter months can be a wonderful time of the year. Most everybody is in the holiday spirit and there are plenty of fun events to be attended and festive movies to be watched. But for five percent of Americans, the winter months are far, far from a happy time.

Seasonal Affective Disorder — also known as SAD — affects about four to six percent of Americans living in the U.S..

The American Psychological Association defines SAD as a type of depressive disorder that follows the seasons – its most common form is called winter depression, which begins in late fall or early winter and can last well into the summer months.

While one single specific cause for SAD is still unknown, there are many factors that can lead to symptoms of the disorder.

Some of these factors include a change in one’s biological clock, decrease in melatonin levels, and living far from the equator.

While the factors contributing to SAD are enough to make anybody re-evaluate their surroundings, individuals who suffer from these symptoms are dealing with far more than just a bad day or a bad night’s sleep.

Symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, along with low energy, insomnia and frequent thoughts of death or suicide. These feelings when associated with SAD are continual, almost all day, nearly every day.

Although many people use medicine to treat their seasonal depression, many other individuals have found help within home remedies to combat the feelings of sadness.
Shoreline’s own Yoga Club offered some of their insight into how they “stay lit” on the inside.

“Exercise!” Yoga participant Macy Mullen-Racca said. “Yoga is so much about listening to your body, and so is mental illness. When the process of listening to what is going on in your head becomes positive instead of negative, your life will begin to reflect that and yoga is a great start for beginning to control your thoughts.”

Daneca Tran led Wednesday’s Yoga Club meeting, and had much to say about how it can be helpful for those suffering from mood disorders.

“Yoga is empowering,” she said. “You learn that you have a choice.”

The mind is a muscle, and when control of the mind is practiced, it is much easier to acknowledge and control the negative thoughts and feelings that inhabit it, just like any other body part.

Along with exercise, taking the time to declutter your living space will have a huge positive impact on your mental state. A 2008 article by Tara Parker-Pope in the New York Times reads, “Excessive clutter is often a symptom of larger health problems.”

So, getting rid of clutter that surrounds your physical body will create more space for you to declutter mentally as well.

There are also devices that work to recreate the conditions your brain is missing during the gray days. Full Spectrum Solutions, SunBox, and Light Therapy Products are all companies that have lights available for purchase which recreate the effect of a sunny day.

A few hours of doing homework by one can regulate a person’s circadian rhythm (wake-sleep cycle) that may have been disrupted during the winter months, causing much more regular chemical reactions in the brain, decreasing depressive symptoms.

If you or someone you know is suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, remember that support and self-love are the biggest help when dealing with symptoms. It is important to focus on what you can control, take bite-sized pieces of life and make sure to carve out time to take care of yourself first.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7.

Yoga Club is offered in the back gym on campus.
Wednesday 1:45-2:45 p.m. and Friday 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Contact Daneca Tran for more information.
[email protected]