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STAMFORD, CT, November 02, 2011 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Are you dreading winter? You're not alone. Millions of people hate to see the "turn the clock" Sunday come along. They know that shorter days of sunlight can bring on SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Like it or not, this coming weekend we have to make the change. "Spring ahead - Fall back" helps us number-challenged people remember which way to turn our clocks.
Wait a minute: "Fall back"? Executive Coach Millie Grenough suggests a totally different strategy for this Sunday's change: No falling back, she says, "Don't be SAD - Get HAPPY!" Stock up now - so you can spring ahead. Just as those smart squirrels scurry around to store their acorns to carry them through the long winter, you can gather tricks to brighten the days ahead.
Grenough, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine, knows that seasonal change can have a great impact on people's mood and behavior. The official DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) lists SAD as a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms with the change of season.
What are some of the symptoms of Wintertime SAD?
- Difficulty waking up in the morning
- Lower energy, tendency to oversleep and over eat - especially a craving for carbohydrates
- Less desire to be with friends or family or participate in social activities
- Difficulty concentrating on and completing tasks.
If you're saying, "Yikes, that's me!," Grenough says do not be alarmed. She points out: "SAD is sometimes applied inaccurately to the normal shift to lower energy levels in winter. This belief may lead people to believe that they have a physical or mental problem, when in reality they may be experiencing normal responses to a changing environment."
Some interesting facts about SAD:
- The further north you live, the worse the symptoms may be. Only 1.4% of people in Florida experience SAD, compared to 9.5% in Finland and 9.7 in New Hampshire
- Iceland is an exception to the "Northern country blues." Seasonal anxiety and depression are unexpectedly low in both females and males. Why Iceland? Recent research suggests that it may be due to the large amount of fish eaten by Icelandic people.
- There is very little occurrence of SAD in tropical countries.
- Women are more likely to be affected by SAD than men.
Even animals are subject to depression and anxiety during these time switches! Some scientists believe that SAD "symptoms" are actually an adaptation in humans related to the hibernation response in animals. For many species, it was much harder to survive in cold weather and less food was available. Therefore, it made sense to "lay low" until the warmer days came.
What are the best treatments for non-hibernating humans to avoid those winter blues? Top recommendations include: get natural sunlight; move your body and be realistic about your winter-time expectations. Other suggestions include bright-light therapy (full-spectrum and other special fluorescent lights, used on a regular basis); antidepressant medication (for severe cases), and melatonin regulation (to help stabilize the circadian rhythm).
Grenough recommends the "natural" treatments whenever possible. She comments, "They are cheaper, they make you feel better overall, and they may well rub off on the people around you - even on your pets. Plain old natural sunlight and physical activity are recognized as the optimal treatments. Open your blinds and shades during daylight hours and let the sun shine in. Invite a friend or colleague to take a walk with you at lunchtime." For those Type AA people who want to go full steam ahead regardless of the change in season, she suggests, "Use your energy to do wintertime activities you enjoy - whether it's skiing or reading a book by the fire. Don't beat up on yourself if you don't accomplish everything you think you should do. Sometimes lowering your expectations is a healthy move."
If you want to make Don't be SAD - Get HAPPY real, Grenough says "Take five minutes right now just for you."
- Write down a list of your favorite wintertime activities. Make them specific. Choose at least three outdoor activities, and three indoor activities.
- If you have a partner, friend or family members nearby, ask them to choose their favorites. Compare your lists.
- Make a plan to do at least one GET-HAPPY activity each day. Make sure it's specific and enjoyable.
- At the end of each day, jot down two things you did today to make yourself happier/healthier. Re-affirm your commitment to your tomorrow GET HAPPY activity.
- Take advantage of your non-work days. Decide to spend at least one hour each weekend doing one of your favorite activities. Give yourself extra credit if it takes you outside in the daylight - but also compliment yourself for taking advantage of those cozy, "hibernating" activities in the evening.
Final words? If you have the chance to go to a tropical clime, do it! If not, line up your best-choice acorns now so that you can really enjoy winter. And maybe, like those folks in Iceland, dig out your favorite fish recipes. And treat yourself to an OASIS in The Overwhelm. Find more practical and simple strategies in Grenough's book OASIS in the Overwhelm, available at www.milliegrenough.com or www.amazon.com.
Millie Grenough, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, is the author of OASIS in the Overwhelm: 60-second strategies for balance in a busy world and OASIS in the Overwhelm 28 Day Guide: Rewire Your Brain from Chaos to Calm and OASIS en la Adversidad. A sought-after keynote speaker, team builder and retreat leader, Grenough coaches individuals and groups, via webinars, phone, and onsite trainings. Grenough's passion? "To help individuals and groups reach their full potential, while becoming saner and healthier." For more information go to www.milliegrenough.com.
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