28 Mar 2013
- Written by Dr. Timothy Moore
The winter months were relatively mild – not too frigid for Southerners like myself. Surprisingly, the birds are chirping, the pollen count is sure to rise, and the icky bugs are surfacing again.
Winter, it seems, is relative. The common denominator for us all is that being cooped up inside during a long winter without the sun's warm glow bathing our skin can lead to emotional discomfort and depression.
Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health described this problem in 1984 as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It is a syndrome that causes people in cooler climates – where the nights are long and the days are short – to lapse into a state of depression until the return of spring and summer.
According to The Mayo Clinic, the clinical description of SAD's symptoms is social withdrawal, hopelessness, lethargy, over-sleeping and weight gain. SAD generally eases its assault on the sufferer when daylight is extended and rigid temperatures are vanquished. But no one will forget the aftermath of mental depression and emotional upheaval.
One in 55 Americans has some type of emotional disorder, news reports have shown. If you're like the majority of people, it should come as no surprise that a lot of individuals may need a warm hug, someone to love, and much-needed attention as they contend with SAD.
I have not experienced SAD – not that I know of. But I've been told that the winter months can be grueling, like you're being locked up for a season, shut out or placed in a box. I would imagine that a burst of light would be all that's needed to free oneself from the cold, dark conditions associated with SAD.
Do you feel trapped sometimes in a cold, dark place that reminds you of being in a tight closet, or in some deep dark hole away from everyone and everything? This is what SAD feels like, I'm told. But don't be surprised by naysayers who'd try to convince you that the absence of light during the bitter chill of winter months is less stressful and taxing on the mind and body.
SAD is real. But don't worry. It goes away when spring arrives. However, since depression and emotional discomfort stemming from SAD is seasonal, you'd still need to focus on your physical health. You still should eat healthy foods throughout the year to avoid becoming physically ill. I can't stress eating healthy enough. Too many people are unhealthy as a result of eating nutrient-starved foods.
Yes, SAD is real. But it shouldn't matter whether the days are short or the nights are long. A good diet, I believe, will remedy your health problems, including depression and emotional discomfort. There will be challenges of course, but don't be dismayed. We're all facing and struggling with something in our life.
We have to be vigilant and eat the foods that will keep us mentally and physically healthy. If your emotions are bottled up, you can release them with a diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. It will make you feel a lot better and keep you balanced. Now if you're unstable, that's another column.
The hardest part about any of this is trying to strike a balance in life. A good diet of course is germane, but you also must exercise, drink plenty of water and change your lifestyle. We all have felt lousy at times, but we can overcome that feeling.
If you're experiencing SAD, you're one of many. But I can assure you that if you focus on eating healthy, your state of mind will change. You wouldn't be concerned about the short days and long nights of winter. You just need to be healthy to deal with the climate change.
How much can you really handle if you're SAD? Besides eating a good diet, I suggest you communicate your feelings and emotions. You'll be surprised to find someone going through the same problem.
So regardless of the situation, learn to live – even if you find it difficult to adjust to the climate change.