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Six tips for SAD

December 21 is the shortest day of the year and is also about the time when many of us "hit bottom." From this point on, our daily dose of sunshine grows incrementally, leading to spring and summer. But people with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, are probably not ready to celebrate just yet. It may be several months before their mood catches up with the sun’s higher path and intensity. 

What are the signs of SAD? People with this condition will notice a pattern of feeling depressed, lethargic and irritable during the late fall and winter, with a gradual improvement as we move into the spring. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause – it could be less sunlight, not getting enough vitamin D, genetic factors, or a combination of things. Here are some ways to help yourself through this slump. 

  • Find ways to keep yourself active throughout the fall and winter months. Exercise is an effective antidote to depression.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Maintain your social connections and consider taking a class, joining a book club or volunteering with your favorite charity.
  • Be aware of what you eat. Excess carbohydrate intake can lead to dramatic changes in blood sugar which can trigger mood swings. Also make sure you are eating foods that are rich in vitamin D.
  • Try a mind-body activity like yoga or tai chi.
  • Let as much daylight as possible into your living or work space.
  • Try phototherapy. This requires using a light box with a minimum strength of 10,000 lux. It is recommended that you sit close to the light box for about 30 minutes each day, preferably first thing in the morning. 

If your symptoms last more than a few weeks or are affecting your everyday activities, work or relationships, you should talk to your physician. 


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