Don’t Suffer Alone
The turkey’s in the oven. Friends and family are on their way. You pace, thinking there must be something you forgot to do, to buy, to prepare. You know you should be excited, but you just can’t relax. Company arrives, and you put on your biggest smile and tell everyone how happy you are, but inside you feel like you’re walking on eggshells. What if something goes wrong? What if all your carefully laid plans fly out the window? Instead of enjoying the day, you spend it stressing.
Or maybe you spend the holidays alone, feeling as if you have nothing to look forward to this time of year. You drive down the street and see families hanging their decorations. Instead of enjoying the beauty of the holidays, you feel a sense of dread and isolation during these, the coldest months.
You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which is characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year, often during the winter months. It’s a condition often seen by the staff of Norman’s Central Oklahoma Community Mental Health Center.
Cathy Camp, a peer recovery support specialist and case manager at the center, said that some of the most common symptoms are irritability; tiredness or low energy; problems getting along with other people; hypersensitivity to rejection; a “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs; oversleeping; appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates; and weight gain.
Unfortunately, Camp said, “too many people try to just brush their distress away as the blues, suffering silently when real help is just a step away; if you feel you may be suffering from SAD, reach out and get some support.”
Here are some DIY techniques to try:
+ Light therapy-This device puts off light similar to natural sunlight. It is most effective when used for approximately 30 minutes a day, preferably in the morning.
+ Make your home brighter with natural sunlight.
+ Get outside. Even in the cold, natural light can help.
+ Exercise; it helps with stress, and also keeps self-esteem up when we overindulge.
Reach out. Use the days you can’t get out due to bad weather to catch up with friends and family on the phone.
Find a new hobby and meet some people in a class who share that interest.
+ Volunteer! It’s a great way to feel good about yourself and to give back.
Check out some local depression support groups:
+ Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, 7-8 p.m. Mondays and 7-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church, Room 229, 419 S. University Blvd., Ricky Brown, 625.4066, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
+ Emotions Anonymous, a 12-step program for emotional health, 6-7 p.m. Mondays, St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church, Room 12, 1801 W. Brooks St., 208.0969.
+ Mood Disorder Support Group, 7-8:30 p.m. Thursdays, Transition House 700 Asp Ave., Margaret, 570.7508
You may also find other, alternative, therapies helpful, such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, guided imagery and massage therapy. A literature search indicates that some supplements are promising as well. These include St. John’s Wort, SAMe, Melatonin, and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. It’s vital to remember these are not FDA-regulated and may interfere with other prescriptions or supplements, so before starting any of these, be sure to consult with your doctor.
If your symptoms don’t improve with these DIY tips, you may need to seek professional help. If your symptoms are severe enough, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants combined with talk therapy. The main goals will be to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors and to learn healthy ways to cope and manage stress.
This can be a hard time of year for anyone, and there will always be good days and not-so-good ones. But if you have an action plan and a support system in place, even the longest, coldest nights can become the perfect opportunity to turn on your sunlamp, fix some hot cocoa and smile at the beauty of winter.