First 30 Days Blog

17 sep

A Lesson on Not Being S.A.D.

Jope2Every year, it happens. There comes one random day in late September when it suddenly hits me the days are getting shorter. And every year, it makes me … S.A.D.

By now, most of us have heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression that generally shows up in the fall and winter months. It’s a legitimate condition that can wreak havoc on someone. Symptoms can include feeling especially tired, moody and hopeless, among other things. For those who cope with clinical depression, the additional onset of S.A.D. is just terrible icing on the cake. For anyone else, S.A.D. can be an unfamiliar and disturbing experience. There are ways to cope, though.

Get outside
Without a doubt, natural light is one of the best antidotes to S.A.D. Even if the sky is cloudy, you can still reap the benefits of the outdoors. For many people, it’s dark by the time they get home in the evenings. If this is the case for you, try to plan for a walk outside in the morning hours. If you leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark, getting outside at lunchtime is crucial.

Lighten up
Last November, I moved from Boston to Seattle and the first thing my doctor said was “Use light therapy.” I laughed at the thought of it … and promptly received one as a gift. It stayed packed until after many grey Seattle days, I busted it out of its box. Small in size – only 5 inches in width and 9 inches in height – it’s comically bright, as in Broadway-stage-spotlight bright. I started spending between 30 and 60 minutes in front of it each day and I truly started to feel better (and perhaps felt like singing show tunes).

Combined with regular exercise, my mind was clearer and feelings of anxiousness dissipated. A word of caution, though. The light has the power to work against you if used improperly. In one instance I accidentally left the light on for two hours while working at my laptop. It wasn’t the brightness I noticed – your eyes actually do adjust to it – but a surge of jittery feelings.

Don’t assume antidepressants are only good for treating chronic depression. Small doses of an SSRI, like Zoloft of Lexapro, can often help. My own doctor will often increase patients’ dosages of an SSRI in the fall and winter and lower it in the spring and summer. Of course, everyone is different so talk to your doctor before adjusting any medications.

It’s easy to think you just have a case of the blues, but don’t ignore feelings of extreme sadness, hopelessness and behavioral changes, especially if they last longer than a couple days.

And, here’s something to look forward to: Daylight Saving Time in March.

Jennifer Jope is the author of, where she documents her own struggles with depression, including what she learned in a behavioral health program. Her health writing has appeared in Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter and

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Posted by Jen Jope on September 17th, 2013 in Health | 0 comments

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