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January 21, 2010

Cindy Battles

This post was contributed by Cindy Battles, a freelance writer based in Rutland, VT who’s been diagnosed with and managing bipolar disorder for many years.

I find myself a little sadder at times, these colder, shorter days. The weather and the darkness just gets me down. I’m not alone. I’m one of 18 million Americans who suffer from S.A.D. – Seasonal Affective Disorder. Experts believe S.A.D. is related to a lack of daylight exposure, which explains why you might feel fine during spring and summer and only start experiencing S.A.D. when night falls earlier.

Symptoms include a general feeling of depression, lack of energy, tiredness, restless sleep, and the desire to eat less or more than usual. The symptoms usually start by November and continue through the winter, almost always disappearing with the arrival of spring and the longer daylight hours.

The good news, we just turned the corner; December 21, the winter solstice, was the longest night of the year. It can only get lighter!

If you have S.A.D., first, take comfort in knowing that it’s real… you aren’t imagining it. And then, fight back:

1. Get plenty of exposure to daylight. I have a friend who swears by her full-spectrum light which she hauls out and plugs in every November. There are less expensive alternatives but if that’s not in your budget, keep it simple: go for a walk in the morning, turning your face towards the sun. Just spending time outdoors can really help.

2. Take good care of yourself with rest, regular exercise and a healthy diet. These things may sound obvious but it’s amazing how many of us take them for granted and forget to prioritize a good sleep, a good sweat, and a good meal.

3. Boost your low mood by engaging in selfless activities. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, offer to babysit a friend’s kids, surprise a coworker with lunch. Remember, by helping others, you help yourself.

Of course, I always find the quickest, cheapest, easiest way to get out of a funk is to lose myself in a great book :-).


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