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Managing Your Seasonal Depression

by Gabe Schiff-Verre

We've all heard the term Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or Seasonal Depression. As Mainers and other New Englanders well know, the lack of sun and cold weather in the Northeast can have a strong impact on our personal health. Effects range from depressed mood, lack of motivation, reduced energy and even reduced appetite. 6% of the US population, primarily in the northern climates, is affected by SAD. Another 14% of the population reports "winter blues."
By Dec 21 we will have less than 9 hours of daylight. Because of our northeasterly coastal location much of that sun will be covered by clouds, not to mention sleet and freezing rain. Depressed yet?
Fortunately there are ways we can not only treat winter's emotional effect, but strengthen our body's resistance preventatively. 

Eat well, eat clean:

Yes, you are what you eat. If your body is being filled with refined sugar and carbs your body will respond poorly. Sugar raises blood glucose levels, as well as carbs such as pasta and bread. As we get that spike we get energy, making us feel good...until we crash. The more empty calories and sugar we eat the more our body needs it and the more our blood glucose becomes unstable, resulting in lack of energy, concentration, depressed mood and weight gain.

Instead, focus on eating cleanly. Fresh steamed veggies for vitamins, minerals and fiber. Lean, low fat meat such as chicken and fish or lean beef for protein. If you're vegetarian eat more beans, peas and grains such as quinoa. Nuts are also a great source of fiber as is flax or chia seeds.

Omega-3: Proven to increase the synapse and firing between neurotransmitters in the brain, omega-3 can increase focus, memory and mood. Omega-3's have also been proven to drastically reduce inflammation and help with pain. Buy a concentration with the highest EPA and DHA content you can find, at least 1,200 combined.

Vitamin-D: Vitamin D plays a very large roll in emotional stability. Our main source of Vitamin D is from the sun, which in this case we are lacking. You can obtain this from milk, salmon, and vegan options like mushrooms or tofu. However, if you really want bang for your buck and to raise levels significantly just get a D-3 supplement with high IU content. At least 1,000 IU.

Exercise: Weekly consistent exercise raises endorphins, regulates our cardiovascular system and from a Chinese medicine side moves Qi or energy that becomes stagnant through lack of use in the winter. This results in more energy, better digestion, less pain and better moods.

Acupuncture/Qi Gong/Tai Chi: All of these modalities aim at accomplishing one thing when depression and fatigue are concerned, building and moving Qi.

Acupuncture has been used for 3,000 years to increase energy levels, mental clarity, aid digestion, reduce pain and enhance the overall quality of people's lives. I see it every day. 1-2 sessions a month can do wonders to keep your mood up as well as treating a variety of other health issues. 

In China it is common practice people to practice Tai Chi or Qi Gong in public places. Many businesses and large companies even offer classes to their employees and go so far as to include that time in their wages. After all, healthier = happier = more productive.


Yin and Yang: You've heard of them I'm sure. Opposites yet mutually dependent in the preservation of harmony and life. Yin- Feminine, quiet, dark, contemplative, cold and its season is Winter. Yang- Masculine,loud,bright, active, hot and its season is Summer.

Summer is the time for being active, energetic and full of movement. Winter is the time of year when Yang turns into Yin. We get cozy, watch movies or read good books, catch up on sleep and relax, allowing ourselves to rebuild our energy reserves.
This balance is necessary for both Yin and Yang to exist and so to is essential for us to exist. We all need our down time, to be alone and center ourselves.
So go ahead and Netflix binge...relax. Just make sure to keep your fires stoked and give your body what it needs to turn that frown upside down. 



December 2016 (1)