The Winter Blues in the Windy City
The days are getting shorter here in Chicago. Just this morning I was up with my 11-month old at 6am and the darkness seemed to drag on and on. It wasn't daylight until nearly 7:30. And the dreaded "fall back" is just around the corner - where we set our clocks back an hour and what used to be 8am will now be 7am.
If you're anything like me, this drastic reduction in daylight can cause your mood to take a hit. While some recent research questions the validity of seasonal affective disorder, some 3 million Americans feel the effects of the dwindling daylight. Because of the increase in darkness, some people find it difficult to exercise or go out. In fact, the decrease in natural light might actually cause our bodies to create more melatonin - a hormone that makes us sleepy. That spike in melatonin lowers thyroid levels - which ultimately effects the amount of serotonin our bodies make. In fact, studies have shown that brain serotonin levels are lowest in the winter (and highest in the summer!).
Signs of seasonal affective disorder include: depressed mood, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or desire to do actives that you usually enjoy. Females are at a higher risk (4x more!) for SAD, as well as those with a family history of depression.
If you find yourself feeling the winter blues, don't lose hope! There are plenty of things you can do to boost your mood. Many people find light boxes to be helpful. You can pop over to amazon.com or even your local Walmart and pick up a light therapy box. The FDA doesn't regulate light boxes, so it's recommended that you're working with a professional who can advice you on correct usage.
There are other ways to keep the seratonin pumping - stay active (aerobic!), plan a trip. cut back on sugar, get your vitamin D levels checked, and if you're still feeling the winter blues, talk to your provider about the possibility of getting on meds. Bottom line, there's no need to suffer through winter.