“Winter is Coming.”
No, this article is not about the Game of Thrones. However, like my favorite HBO series, winter is coming and I must defend against my dark demons.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
You see, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and I live in a very northern latitude that gets cold and dark for six months out of the year. During these cold periods of indirect sunlight, I battle a world of monsters. These monsters are not outside my door, but rather inside my head. I fight feelings of sadness, apathy, and agitation. My insomnia gets more intense and my moodiness is hard to control. I feel guilty about the stress it places on my family, having to walk on eggshells.
A very harsh and long winter combined with no planned spring retreat to sunnier latitudes made last winter especially difficult for me. My friends and family were concerned about my mental condition. I made it through because I was able to stay active, release energy, went skiing and followed an eating protocol that helped balance my hormones.
Once again, my friends and family are showing increased concern about moving into this winter. They are concerned, for good reason, that I may not be able to fight this year’s winter demons because I am down a leg. A month ago I injured my knee tearing my ACL and meniscus. That means ski season is likely out this year, even after a successful repair. My activity will also be limited until I can fully recover from my upcoming surgery.
The lack of outside activity and general mobility would likely trigger depression in many people, but for someone who suffers from SAD, the combination could be devastating. My friends and family definitely have a right to be concerned.
Like my favorite Game of Thrones Heart Throb, John Snow, I will fight these winter monsters. I compiled a list of preparations to combat my SAD for the upcoming season.
Light affects how much melatonin the body produces. During the shorter days of the winter months, my body may produce melatonin either earlier or later in the day than usual. This change can lead to my SAD.
Also, my natural melatonin levels are slowly drop with age. I am taking 3 mg of melatonin supplements every evening before bed to combat my insomnia. Melatonin supplementation is often routinely prescribed for those with SAD.
2. B Vitamin Complex
A B complex vitamin usually delivers eight of the B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin). Found naturally in meat, leafy greens, dairy, beans, peas, and whole or fortified grains, B complex vitamins help the body make energy from food.
B vitamin supplementation will supply additional energy to combat lethargy and apathy.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D supplementation is important for most people. Deficiencies of vitamin D are common, especially in northern latitudes, where sun exposure is typically infrequent. Vitamin D assists in the absorption of calcium and promotes bone mineralization, which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis. It also helps to strengthen the immune system and protect against a number of serious diseases.
During the months of September through May, when I am not receiving direct sunlight, I take 5,000 IU of Vitamin D every morning. Most wellness websites recommend a minimum of 400 IU supplementation every day.
4. Medical Cannabis
New research has shown that medial cannabis can be effective in treating depression. Medical cannabis is also effective in treating insomnia.
My state allows for medical marijuana. I am currently seeking a medical marijuana prescription for pain management associated with my knee injuring. I plan on using medical marijuana to combat my insomnia and moments of severe depression related to SAD.
5. A Trip South
I am already saving for my families plane tickets to a sunny equatorial latitude in late winter 2018. I am going south for at two weeks during the longest and hardest part. We are likely heading to Central America for some very needed fun in the sun.
I have routinely taken late winter vacations to warmer lattitudes which has helped to combat my winter blues. Last winter was the first time in many years that I did not take a winter vacation and the worst version of SAD that I had ever experienced.
6. Diet and Exercise
I plan on sticking to my physical therapy and doing everything I possibly can to get that knee healed. The faster I can get back to my normal exercise routine, the better I will feel physically and mentally. Also, keeping to a routine with diet and exercise helps combat SAD.
My focus will be on maintaining a diet that balances my hormones. A diet that focuses on whole organic foods free of sugar, preservatives, processed foods and unhealthy fats will keep my happy hormones in optimal working order.
I am hoping these efforts will make this long winter a more enjoyable experience. Battling my SAD is part of my experiments in vitality.