Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a major depressive disorder that occurs during the same season each year. Also known as the “winter blues,” SAD typically comes on in the fall and winter, when the light is diminished.

SAD is believed to affect nearly 10 million Americans and is four times more common in women than men. Many people experience symptoms that are severe enough to affect their quality of life.

Though not everyone will experience the same symptoms, here are some of the most common:

  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • A change in appetite and developing a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Weight gain
  • A drop in energy level
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Thoughts of suicide

Treatments

If you suffer from SAD, here are some ways you can alleviate your symptoms:

Light Boxes

By far the greatest relief, according to research, comes from the use of lightboxes. Lightboxes emit high-intensity light between 2,500 to 10,000 lux. Compare this to a normal light fixture that emits only 250 to 500 lux.

Lightboxes closely mimic the sun’s natural rays, helping our brains produce the right amount of neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood.

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may only need to use the lightbox for 30 minutes once a day. For more severe symptoms, people have found relief by using the box for long periods of time and can often feel true relief in as little as two weeks.

Some insurance providers will cover the cost of lightboxes, but not all do, so be sure to speak with your provider.

Exercise

While it may feel counterintuitive, if not downright impossible, to get up and get moving when you’re feeling depressed, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Exercise not only reduces stress and tension, but it releases those feel-good endorphins. Studies have also found that one hour of aerobic exercise outdoors (even if the sky is overcast) has the same positive effect on mood as 2.5 hours of using a lightbox.

Eat Well

It’s common to turn to junk food when you’re feeling the winter blues. High-sugar foods tend to give us a temporary boost in energy levels and mood. But then we come crashing down and feel even worse. A better choice is to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, opting for complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and whole grains.

Speak with a Therapist

If your symptoms are very severe, and if you are having any thoughts of harming yourself, then it is important to speak with a therapist who can help you navigate your depression and offer coping tools.

If you or a loved one are currently suffering from SAD and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

How to Set Healthy Boundaries

Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic and otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other person’s. These people most likely grew up in households that were unsafe and unstable, and where there was a constant invasion of personal boundaries.

If you can relate, chances are you have a hard time creating healthy boundaries to create the life experience you wish to have. Here are some ways you can begin to do so:

Identify Your Limits

You can’t set boundaries unless you discover where it is you personally stand. You’ll need to take a bit of time to recognize what you can and cannot tolerate. What makes you happy and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? Only until you have made these discoveries can you move on to the next steps.

Don’t Be Shy

People who have similar communication styles are easy to engage with. These people will quickly understand what your new barriers are. But people who have a different cultural background or personality may not easily understand your boundaries. With these people, it’s important to be very clear and direct.

Pay Attention to Your Feelings

People who have a hard time setting boundaries don’t often allow themselves to acknowledge their own feelings because they’re usually too busy worrying about everyone else’s.

You’ll need to start recognizing how people make you feel in order to know whether your new boundaries are being crossed or not. When you’re with someone, make mental notes, or even jot down in a journal how that interaction made you feel.

If, after spending time with someone, you feel anger or resentment, this is a sign that the person may be overstepping your boundaries. Reiterate to this person what your boundaries are. If they continue to disrespect you and them, you will want to cut yourself away from further interactions.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Put yourself and your needs first. This may feel strange and even somehow wrong if you’ve spent your entire life taking care of others. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and get what you need to feel happy and well.

Speak with Someone

If you’ve spent an entire life with a sense of low self-worth, you may find setting boundaries quite difficult. In this case, it’s important to speak with a therapist that can help you discover where these feelings are coming from and how to change your thought patterns and behavior.

If you’d like to explore therapy, please get in touch with me. I would be happy to help you on your journey toward self-care.

How to Deal with Loneliness Around Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s day is just around the corner. For many people that means celebrating with their spouse or partner and showing them extra love and attention. But for others, Valentine’s Day is a sad reminder that they are single or are perhaps grieving the recent loss of their significant other.

If you are celebrating it alone this year, here are a few ways you can alleviate your sadness this Valentine’s Day.

Give Yourself a Break

It’s bad enough to feel lonely, but it’s even worse to scold yourself for doing so. Loneliness is not an indication that you’re doing anything wrong or that there is something wrong and unlovable about you.

Even people that are in relationships can feel incredibly lonely. Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life. It’s not a sin to feel this way, so stop scolding yourself.

Take Yourself on a Date

How many times during the year do you make a real effort to show yourself love? If you’re like most people, you don’t really think much about how you treat yourself.

This Valentine’s Day, if you find yourself a party of one, try and make the best of it by focusing all of your love and attention on yourself. Take yourself out to a nice dinner. Or, if you don’t like the idea of sitting at a table alone surrounded by couples, then order in your favorite food and watch your favorite movie.

Take a nice long bath. Listen to your favorite band. Buy yourself a little gift on the way home from work. Use this Valentine’s Day to commit to showing yourself more love and kindness throughout the year.

Show Your Love for Others

Valentine’s Day is a holiday to show love. No one says that love must be shown in a romantic way.

This is a great time to show your affection and appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Get your best friend a box of chocolates or your mom a bouquet of flowers. Put a card on your neighbor’s windshield and your coworker’s computer monitor.

You can be filled with love by being loved, and you can be filled with love by loving others. The more love YOU show this holiday, the more love you will feel inside. And you would be amazed at how the loneliness quickly slips away when you are full of love.

Don’t let the commercialism of the holiday make you feel alone and isolated. You really can have a lovely Valentine’s day if you love yourself and others.

Why Setting a Strong Female Role Model is Important for Your Daughter

Every Halloween, little girls all over the country choose costumes that reflect what they want to be when they grow up. And each year we see many girls choosing to dress as princesses and fairies, kitty cats and maybe the odd super hero. Rarely do we see young girls dressing as executives, scientists, or world leaders.

It can seem benign enough, but it does beg the question: are young girls still under the impression their choices in life are limited? And what can parents, particularly mothers, do to set a good example?

The Importance of Role Models

If you are a runner, you probably know that for most of human history no one was able to run the 4-minute mile. In 1940, someone actually got to 4:01, and for nine years that is where the record stayed, with not one runner in the entire world being able to break it.

It seemed to everyone that the human body, no matter how fit and trained, would never be able to break that record. But then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.

And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, someone else ran a mile under 4 minutes, and then more runners did it, and then even more. Now it’s common practice for runners to run the mile in under 4 minutes.

Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.

Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are some ways mothers can set a strong female role model for their daughters:

Body Image

It’s important for mothers to encourage their daughters to be healthy and strong, but not to obsess over beauty. It’s not enough to talk the talk, moms have got to take care of their bodies and health and accept themselves as they are.

Boundaries

Unless they are shown otherwise, young girls may grow up assuming they must constantly please others and never say no. Moms, it’s important to show your daughters that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary.

Confidence

Confidence comes from a mindset that failure and mistakes are merely chances to learn. It also comes from knowing strengths and abilities as well as limitations. In other words, confidence is a byproduct of knowing and accepting our true selves.

 

Are you having a hard time being the role model you’d like to be? Maybe you’re a stressed-out single parent who could use some coping strategies. If you’d like to speak with someone, please be in touch. I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-gender-ourselves/201205/female-role-models-the-absent-conversation

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201205/i-could-do-why-role-models-matter

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beauty-sick/201705/gift-mothers-daughters

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201402/9-ways-be-the-best-role-model-you-can-be

https://www.nomeatathlete.com/4-minute-mile-certainty/

10 Signs You Might Be a “Highly Sensitive Person”

Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? If so, you’re not alone. It is estimated that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive. In fact, scientists now believe there is a gene behind this trait.

But what does it mean to be highly sensitive? The HSP is generally defined as someone with “acute physical, mental, and emotional responses to external (social, environmental) or internal (intra-personal) stimuli.”

The bad news is, being highly sensitive can make many “normal” life situations feel awkward and downright uncomfortable. But fear not, there are some benefits to being highly sensitive, and I’ll share those a little later in this post.

Signs You May Be a Highly Sensitive Person

If you are curious whether you may be part of the population that is highly sensitive, here are 10 signs to look for:

  1. You are quick to feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.
  2. You may feel physical symptoms in relation to these emotions, such as headaches and muscle tension.
  3. You become overwhelmed with physical stimuli such as sound, light and smells.
  4. You have never felt comfortable around crowds. The energy of the crowd easily overwhelms you.
  5. You become very emotional over the injustices of the world. (you cry or become angry at the thought of children or animals being harmed, as an example)
  6. You often worry what others think of you.
  7. You take things personally.
  8. You have a hard time letting things go and receiving critical feedback.
  9. You avoid most social situations and prefer to stay home alone.
  10. You startle easily to loud noises.

Benefits of Being a Highly Sensitive Person

As I mentioned earlier, while being a HSP can cause you to feel awkward or overwhelmed at times, there are some definite perks to being highly sensitive. For starters, you are someone who can enjoy subtle sensory detail that a majority of the population misses. You get pleasure from noticing the end of day light play. You’ll notice subtle shades of color and texture and feel immense pleasure at the complexities of Indian cuisine.

You’re also someone others like being around because you are aware of others’ feelings, needs and emotions. Because of this natural empathy, HSPs make great teachers, managers and leaders.

HSPs are also incredibly creative. Many artists, musicians and famous actors are highly sensitive people who have gifted the world with their talent and insight into what it means to be human.

As you can see, if you can manage the negative aspects of being a highly sensitive person, you can reap some pretty great rewards.

If you or someone you love suspects they are a HSP and would like to explore treatment options to manage those negative aspects, please get in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help.