Dealing with SAD

For years, I tried to ignore my feelings of fatigue and listlessness as the seasons changed and days got shorter and cooler. I tried to ignore my moodiness. Then several years ago I discovered my malady had a name: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In the late '90s I had read articles about light therapy as a treatment for mood disorders. At a previous facility where I lived, the assistant director of nursing told me she felt residents would benefit from light therapy and she wished there were funding for it.

I wonder if sadness during the fall and winter months might be part of the human body’s natural rhythm. Maybe we feel tired because we evolved from creatures that hibernated for part of the winter. Could that be why we want to take "a long winter's nap?"

I have noticed most people are kind of grumpy this time of year. It is hard to get our bodies moving. The holidays keep us motivated and busy with the things we need to do to get ready to celebrate. Thousands of years ago, man worshipped the sun on the December winter solstice. Although mankind was less evolved, humans realized the sun's importance to life and well-being.

I get through the SAD months by keeping myself occupied, although some days it is hard to do. Sometimes my brain wants a vacation no matter what I am telling it to do.

Being outside in the fresh air—even if it is cold—is exhilarating. Changes of scene, such as shopping or a lunch out, also lift my mood. Exercise, meditation and prayer occupy my mind and calm it.

Many people dread the onset of winter. During the summer others wish for snow because they are hot. But I know we humans are seldom happy with what we have. In winter's uncertain weather, my grandmother Mears planted a couple amaryllis bulbs. Watching them grow and awaiting their beautiful flower gave her a sense of anticipation and hope.

There is beauty and wonder in every day. We do not have to go outside or travel far away to find it. Planning special time each day to deal with our own needs will allow us to feel better about ourselves and more satisfied with our lives.

Topics: Activities , Clinical