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Let's Talk About SAD


March 2014

Danielle Zorn


Don’t blow off your rainy day blues. You may be dealing with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and not even know it. SAD is actually a subtype of different psychological disorders, such as bipolar disorder or depression. It tends to start near the beginning of fall and last throughout the winter and even sometimes into the spring. But how do you know if what you’re experiencing is SAD or just a gloomy day? 

SAD photo

Bellevue Club’s naturopathic doctor, Rachel Erickson, notes the importance of getting checked by a doctor. “[SAD] has very similar symptoms to those associated with anemia or hypothyroidism. It can even resemble PMS, so it requires a clinical diagnosis to find out if you are actually dealing with SAD,” she says. If you are experiencing sleepiness, irritability, weight gain due to an increased appetite, or feeling depressed, it may be time to head to the doctor. But that doesn’t mean you can’t alter a few of your regular habits to help the situation.

Erickson gives seven helpful and manageable tips to lift your spirits and make it a sunny day, every day.

1. Purchase full-spectrum light bulbs for your house. If there’s no sun outside, you can certainly do your best with full-spectrum bulbs that emulate the sunshine.  

2. Exercise daily. Getting your metabolism moving ensures that you are efficiently burning off the food you consume. Sign up for a fun exercise class or take a brisk walk outside with a friend. 

3. Get outside—even if it’s cloudy. It is important to get any exposure to light, even if it’s overcast light. If it’s gray outside or drizzling even, just throw on your boots and raincoat and venture outdoors. 

4.  Eat a clean diet. Try to stay away from the fried comfort food, and stick to healthier dishes—warm chicken soup and steamed veggies. The key is to also moderate your alcohol consumption. “It is common to see people staying in and drinking more if they’re dealing with SAD,” Erickson says. 

5. Maintain a healthy sleep pattern. It is easy to sleep more when you are feeling lethargic already, but keeping your circadian rhythms consistent ensures a holistically healthy physiological and emotional outlook. 

6. Go to the doctor for nutritional or herbal supplement recommendations. There are many different and helpful vitamins or supplements that help SAD; however, it is important to get the lab work done beforehand to rule out any other diagnosis. 

7. Acupuncture.  If you are interested in trying out an alternative type of treatment, Erickson recommends acupuncture, which “can uplift your mood, and bring light into the body where there is otherwise darkness.” 

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