SAD...About Winter Blues

Jan 17, 12:34 AM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

If you find yourself getting down in the dumps during the dark of winter, you're not imagining things, and you're not alone. You may be suffering from a form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Those who are prone to SAD generally feel moody, anxious, irritable and/or depressed beginning in late fall or early winter. The condition abates by mid-spring, as the days grow longer, then returns again the next winter. People with SAD tend to sleep very long hours, withdraw from social contact, feel fatigued, and may have trouble concentrating. They may start craving high carbohydrate foods and gain weight each winter.

The causes of SAD are not well understood, but it is known that people with the condition produce excess melatonin. It is more prevalent in northern climates, where the sun sets earlier and winter nights are longer. There may also be some genetic susceptability to SAD.

It's well established that exposure to sunlight relieves the condition, and many health care providers recommend light therapy using special phototherapy boxes. Daily morning treatment sessions vary in length, depending upon the degree of light intensity (lux) provided by the box.

Diffusing essential oils into your environment can be very helpful for SAD, with or without phototherapy. Citrus oils are the classic recommendation, as most are uplifting and refreshing. These include lemon, lime, sweet orange, tangerine, grapefruit and yuzu. Citrus oils not only improve mood, but stimulate the mind, so they are best used during the morning or early afternoon. Some people enjoy combining these essential oils with evergreens, which are also uplifting and tonifying: pine, black spruce and fir. If you reserve your aromatherapy for the evening hours, it's best to diffuse bergamot and mandarin, as these oils are mildly sedative and will help avoid insomnia from the overstimulation that may occur with other citruses.

Run your diffuser for at least an hour, or ideally, have a unit that cycles on and off at regular intervals. Allow at least two weeks of regular aromatherapy sessions before you begin to notice a significant improvement in mood.

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