SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder
Dear Tacit,

I’m finding that my energy levels dip much faster in these colder, darker months.  Any tips to help me feel better?

Signed: SAD
Dear SAD,

Many people notice a drop in their energy levels and a shift in their positive mood as the days get shorter and the natural light wanes.  If these dips last most of the day, and reoccur/happen every day, you might be dealing with a common phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD), which is a form of depression that impacts about 3-5% of our Canadian population (another 15% will experience a lesser version of the Disorder).  SAD tends to impact women more than men – it tends to be felt more in the fall/winter months (but can also occur in the spring/summer) – and it tends to affect people between the ages of 18 and 30 more than it does older individuals (the risk of developing SAD decreases with age).  Regardless of whether or not you are dealing with SAD, here are some suggestions for ways to boost your energy levels throughout the winter months.

Take advantage of the daylight as much as possible.  Spend time outdoors in natural light every day for about 30-60 minutes (within the first hour of being awake is most optimal for the absorption of vitamin D which increases serotonin).  Enjoying the fresh air and slower pace of nature (at multiple times of the day) does wonders to soothe our stress and boost our happy hormones.  If being outdoors this much is not practical, get a SAD light and allow yourself direct exposure for 1-2 hours each day.

Ensure your diet provides you with the vitamins necessary for healthy energy levels.  Are you getting enough Vitamin B, D, Iron, Thiamine, and Folic Acid, for example?  If what you are eating doesn’t provide the substance needed, consider adding vitamin supplements to your daily routine.

As the outside temperatures drop, find ways to stay warm.  If your body has to fight the chill, it drains your energy levels even faster.  Stay active – many of us slow down as summer ends, and this decrease of kinetic energy is a huge factor in the drop of our overall energy/mood.

Be sure to get a good night’s sleep, every night.  Quality rest allows your brain/body to heal itself.  When we don’t sleep well, we wake up partially drained already, and the day just gets harder from there.

Create an indoor environment that is revitalizing, not dark and depressing. We are highly influenced by our surroundings, so wrap yourself in bright light and colours, make your work space appealing, and use aromatherapy and music to add cheer to your day.  There is an enormous amount of research that shows us the amazing boosting effects our favourite smells, sounds and visual stimulations have on our serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin levels (all happy hormones that boost energy levels).

And be sure to incorporate “Pauses” and “Refills” throughout your day, on very regular intervals.  “Pause” breaks allow you to step away from drains of the day temporarily, providing decompression moments or a reset of your stress levels on a regular basis.  And “Refill” breaks allow energy levels to rebuild in positive ways, to ensure your energy gas tank stays full no matter how much you might be expending.  (You are welcome to join Tacit on November 24th for a workshop that focuses on how to build both Pauses and Refills into your day.)

Take care!

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