During the long, cold, northern Michigan winters, I often struggle to get out of bed. I use what little energy I have to get out the door, take care of the kids and go to work. When I get home, I often climb into bed. I am done for. I have nothing left to give.
I fight seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I use the word fight because I am continually battling my symptoms and trying to feel better. Everyone has different symptoms but for me, I am irritable, tired with very little energy, and hypersensitive, my anxiety worsens, appetite changes and I gain weight. My insomnia often worsens too. Therefore, I have no energy and I am exhausted but I cannot sleep. It is the pits.
I smile and most people do not know I suffer. I am very good at pretending. My make-up hides the bags and dark circles from lack of sleep. The coffee gives me jolts of energy to get me through the long days. My family pays the price and knows me best. They experience my irritability and hypersensitivity. My sisters, aunt and close friends talk me off the cliff when my anxiety peaks and I am worried over something that I cannot fix or change.
If you suffer from SAD, you might understand how I am feeling. From October/November thru March/April, I am literally in a battle. Which for those who know this side of me I am grateful for because they still love me, even though I am certain they do not like me all of the time. I am sure they wonder why I cannot just shake it off. Why I cannot just turn off lights and fall to sleep. Why I stress out over little things or cry over the smallest of things.
If I could change this about myself, I would. It would be one of my three wishes, should I ever meet a genie in a bottle. Even though I cannot change this about myself, I do work hard to try to relieve the symptoms or cope with them to feel as best as I can. Some days are better than others are. Some days I try harder and other days, I give up, go to bed, and sulk.
A few things I have found success with for coping with my SAD include:
Light Therapy– Using a natural light box is supposed to help keep your body’s internal clock in sync so you feel awake during the day. I do not use this as often as I should but when I do, I notice I have more energy and feel happier.
Vitamin D – With a lack of sunlight in northern Michigan during the winter, I believe this vitamin helps me significantly. The vitamin should help increase a sense of well-being, improve sleeping patterns and it help with bone health. My doctor recommended this vitamin to help improve the symptoms of depression that I feel during the long winter months. Currently I am using the NOW® Extra Strength Liquid Vitamin D-3. I like how I can just put one drop in my water in the morning and I do not have to swallow a pill. There is 1,000 IU per drop.
Vitamin B-12 – My doctor also recommended I take vitamin B-12 to help maintain Serotonin levels. The vitamin is supposed to help with irritability and insomnia. In addition, it is supposed to help with energy and I certainly need more energy! I am currently taking the liquid NOW® Ultra-B12. I especially like this product because it is high in folic acid (800 mcg) and my doctor suggested taking folic acid with vitamin D and B12 for better absorption of the vitamins. I have to say, I do notice a difference in my energy level when I take my daily dose. Learn more about B vitamins here.
Herbal Sleep Remedy – I have found Valerian to be one herb that works for me, which is why I have found success using NOW® Sleep. It combines Valerian and hops. This botanical sleep blend helps to relax the nervous system. I find that when I use this, I feel very calm and less anxious, which is great for when I am trying to fall asleep. It is impossible to fall asleep when my anxiety level is high, which is why I really like this blend and the success I have had using it.
Travel – This is the most expensive thing that helps me but it does help. When I can travel to a sunny and warm destination, my mood, sleep and overall well-being improves significantly.
Exercise and Fresh Air – I cannot lie, I am the worst at this. I am in a funk and not feeling very energetic, which means I have to force myself to go for a walk or go outside for fresh air. When it is freezing cold, I am less likely to go outside and take a walk or soak up the sun on a snow bank. When I do exercise, I sleep better and feel better about myself. It would probably help with the weight gain I experience too!
Essential Oils – I will expand on this in a future post but I use essential oils on an almost daily basis. Aromatherapy is not a new concept; it is an ancient tradition used for thousands of years. I use essential oils to help improve my mood, to feel peaceful, to help me concentrate, to relax and more. Read more about the essential oils I use and in a future post, I’ll share my favorite natural oils and how I like to use them to help me cope with my seasonal affective disorder.
This is just my own personal experience battling SAD. What I do to help feel better is what works for me and I am continually, year-after-year, trying new ways to improve my well-being and feel the best I can. If you suffer, please talk to your own doctor to see if these or other suggestions could work for you as well. Everyone is so different and it is always best to seek medical advice.
Do you battle SAD? If so, what has worked well for you and the symptoms you experience?
Disclaimer: I am a NOW Foods ambassador. All opinions are my own, I am writing about my own experiences.
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