Self-care: “SAD” no more

Life can be unpredictable and chaotic, especially these days. It is important to take time for yourself. Like most things in life, self-care is on a spectrum. It looks different for each of us. Whatever you need is what it is.

I never thought I had seasonal affective disorder (SAD) until I moved away from Texas. I guess being located in the center of the US where it stays lighter and warmer for longer was just something I always took for granted.

Daylight Savings ends Nov 1st aka it’s about to get real dark, y’all. I wanted to share some ways on how I’m planning on combatting SAD and hopefully have my happiest winter yet.

Things to Buy:

  • Light box – Bright light therapy (BLT) is the first-line treatment for SAD based on multiple research studies and systematic reviews. Morning, but not evening, BLT demonstrated to be effective in studies and the efficacy of BLT was independent from the administered wavelength.
  • Dawn simulator aka a sunrise alarm – Wake up to the “sun” even if the sun isn’t quite up yet.

Things to Try:

  • Dedicate some time to going outside every day while it’s light even if you have to bundle up. Eat lunch outside, go for a morning walk, or just sit out in the Hasbro garden for 15 minutes. 
  • Exercise and eat a well-balanced diet (perhaps practice your soup or crock-pot game so you have endless leftovers).

Things to Deny:

(Okay I just wanted to be cheesy and make the three categories rhyme. This section is about things to avoid.)

  • Don’t nap! It’ll throw off your sleep-wake cycle and we all know how important that is. Side note: be sure to open your patients’ blinds in the morning (I’m looking at you, seniors). 
  • Avoid “comfort traps” or potential triggers – things that may feel good in the moment but later contribute to worsening anxiety or depression. I’m mostly talking about binging behaviors. Try to limit alcohol use, don’t overeat, and don’t overdo TV streaming services.

Random but Interesting Facts:

  • A 2018 systematic review found that light therapy and fluoxetine are the only proven and effective acute treatment options for SAD, while bupropion is the only registered drug for prevention of SAD. 
  • Available evidence indicates that bupropion XL is an effective intervention for prevention of recurrence of SAD. Nevertheless, even in a high-risk population, three out of four people will not benefit from preventive treatment with bupropion XL and will be at risk for harm.
  • Melatonin and vitamin D have been tried for prevention and treatment of SAD but lack evidence.