‘Dry January’ or Veganary are concreted as the new year’s trends every January but trends are not for everyone. Some people deal with the same old friend each winter. That friend is commonly known as ‘Winter Depression’ or Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD’s.
Symptoms of SAD’s can start in late Autumn, just as the days get shorter and there are less daylight hours. However, they can become more severe during the months of December, January and February. These symptoms can include persistent low mood, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt or worthlessness and even loss of pleasure or interest in normal day life. An unquenchable desire for carbohydrates and a need for more sleep than you thought possible can become a constant focus if you suffer from SAD’s. Some of the more long term detrimental side effects of suffering from SAD’s, especially long term, are social withdrawal, substance abuse, failing mental health and even suicidal thoughts or behaviour.
A specific cause of SAD’s or the reason as to why some of us suffer from it and others don’t, remain unknown. But there are some factors that may play a role. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in our serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical that directly affects our mood. When serotonin levels are low we can breach into a depressive state. Melatonin levels can also be disrupted by the seasons. Low melatonin levels can have a damaging effect on our sleep patterns and mood. Additionally, our natural circadian rhythm, more commonly known as our biological clock, can be disrupted by reduced sunlight causing imbalance in our internal clock which leads to feels of depression or low mood. A family history of SAD’s or a pre existing mental health condition can leave you more vulnerable to experiencing SAD’s during these Winter months.
The good news is that thanks to the awareness and growing discussion around SAD’s there are more and more achievable tips and lifestyle choice based solutions to help us through the dark months. Some helpful changes can include taking vitamin D supplements from October for 90-120 days. Making heated or hot yoga a part of your exercise routine in the winter months will help to add heat to your body and calmness to your mind through the restorative, meditative and yogic breathing elements of yoga. Be aware of your alcohol and sugar levels during the winter months as both these substances can be depressive and have a negative effect on our natural body clock and mood. Sharing a space with a salt or heat light daily for 30 minutes (ideally in the morning) can help manage the imbalance of melatonin and serotonin levels in your body.
Some of the more innovative solutions to SAD’s are things like Lumie Bodyclock or the Lumie Arabica Light Box. Both pieces of technology are modern solutions that can help you deal with the lack of daylight and will maximise your exposure to vitamin D.
Aromatherapy is the perfect place to aid and relieve the symptoms of the Winter Depression. Essential Oils are plant based therapeutic oils, which can positively effect your mind and body when passed though the limbic brain by inhalation or into your blood stream via massage. The added advantage of opting to treat your SAD’s with Aromatherapy massage is that your mind and body receive the attention of touch. The powerful release of healthy hormones delivered so beautifully from human touch, while also stimulating both the lymphatic and circulatory systems, help to warm up your body and drain excess toxins in your muscles. The physiological rejuvenation and stimulation towards the nervous systems makes Aromatherapy massage the ideal way to treat SAD’s naturally. Inhalation as your Aromatherapy delivery method is also a brilliantly effective way to stimulate the brain and limbic system and can be easily done daily at home. Inhalation with a diffusor or simply taking deep inhalations of a blend on a tissue often can be very successful and peaceful.
So which oils are best for SAD’s? Diffusing citrus oils can bring a sense of sunshine and energy to your home and mood. Blend Lime, Bergamot, Sweet Orange and Grapefruit and diffuse in your living space or office in the morning or early afternoon to brighten your day and keep you motivated through the afternoon slump.
A perfect pre bed massage or bath Aromatherapy recipe is an aromatic blend of Lavender and Rosemary. The Lavender is known to ease stress, insomnia and depression, while Rosemary is said to work to effectively to release anxiety. Together they tackle low moods with vigorous force. Patchouli essential oil will add balance and stillness to the blend and your mind. Lemongrass is the fourth essential oil in this blend. Although not typically an anti-depressant, Lemongrass is a radiant and uplifting plant oil and aromatically stunning. It rounds off this blend with a sense you will crave though the Winter months.