Don’t let Seasonal Affective Disorder make you sad

Every year when the sun moves south, 3 million other Americans and I feel the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I notice each fall I am more surly and tired. Many nursing home residents here seem to react similarly. It is more difficult to rouse them for breakfast when they feel the chill of a now much darker morning.

Some psychiatrists say we should not blame our seasonal downturn on SAD, but it makes a certain amount of sense. We are evolved descendants of mammals, many of whom still hibernate. On a cold, dark, rainy day I struggle just to stay awake. Then, the sun's weird December angle makes it difficult to be out on a sunny day without squinting.

While it is always important to get enough sleep, doing so in late fall and winter is essential. Some days I have difficulty concentrating and my mind easily wanders. However, over the years, I have adapted and found ways to keep the doom and gloom outside my window away.

As the holidays approach, some of us feel sadder. Many of us miss family and friends who are close in our hearts but far away in distance. The colder weather makes it tougher for them to visit. None of them relishes coming to visit us and getting stuck hours from home because of an early winter storm.

Though I enjoy the sun, I prefer four seasons. As I look at the now frostbitten geraniums and petunias in the yard across the street, it seems almost unbelievable that just three weeks ago they were still in bloom.

Our ancestors celebrated during the winter, perhaps to get them through the dark times and lack of sun up north. The holidays offer a diversion and allow us to think about others during this season of giving. But each of us needs to take care of ourselves and find tasks to keep our brains and hands busy.

For me, who cannot use my hands to do much, reading is essential, as is writing. I keep a journal every day that gives me great insight into my feelings. Looking back and reading an entry from two months ago shows me the progression of my thoughts and how I adapted to life's uncertainties.

Getting out in the available sunlight is beneficial to our bodies. If we cannot, we need to stay motivated and engaged in order to make the shorter, darker days better.

Topics: Activities