What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal affective disorder (also known as the winter blues) is a period of major depression that most often happens during the winter months when the days grow short and you get less and less sunlight. It typically goes away in the spring and summer. VIA Web MD
I grew up (for the most part) in Eastern Oregon. This Oregon high desert is located east of the Cascade Range and south of the Blue Mountains in central and eastern Oregon.
During the summers it gets up in the 80s – 100s and the air is relatively dry as it blows off the Rolling Sage Plain. On the other hand, in the winter, we usually got enough snow to make fantastic snowmen for a few months.
So, in Ontario, Oregon, we enjoyed the full four seasons. But, one summer day is when I first noticed how those seasons affected how I feel.
Seasonal Ups and Downs
That summer day when I first became consciously aware of the fluctuations in my feelings, I was walking with my younger siblings to the swimming pool. It felt so good to be in the sun and walking down the hot sidewalks. I couldn’t even get mad at my sister for her usual lagging behind and then yelling at us to wait for her to catch up. It just didn’t bother me anymore!
I recognized, at that moment, that I often felt so much better in the summer but distinctly remember feeling sad and irritable in the winter. When I mentioned it to my mom, she told me everyone feels like that when seasons change. But, she too was depressed (which no one knew) and I don’t think SAD was even recognized in the 1960s.
Additionally, talking about mental health was certainly not encouraged at any level in our home. Back then, committing someone to an insane asylum and throwing away the key was a very real thing. So, naturally, most people were too fearful to talk openly about mental health unless, of course, you were in the profession.
Anchorage Gets It
Fast forward to the mid-1980s when I was living in Anchorage, Alaska, working at an engineering firm. I was diagnosed with depression while working there and as a result, my supervisor asked me to research full-spectrum lighting and report the results to him. When he looked over my findings, he told me which ones to order and we had them installed over my cubicle area.
As we stood together looking at the newly installed full-spectrum lighting, he jokingly said to me, “Now, I expect great results!” To which I cheerfully replied, “It’s a miracle!” Of course, the results are not that fast – but full-spectrum lighting does help immensely. Much to their credit, it is my understanding that new office buildings in Anchorage are routinely fitted with full-spectrum lighting because of the darkness of the long winter months.
Oregon Decades of SAD
I left Alaska in 1989 and spent the next three decades in Oregon suffering from SAD. Businesses simply did not care and I did nothing about it because full-spectrum lighting was very expensive. Even the light boxes were well over $200. However, today there are many light boxes you can purchase for much less. Here are the first three that came up with an Amazon search.
Simply stated, being a single mother on a very restrictive budget, I believed that full-spectrum lighting was a luxury I could not afford. But, was that a mistake on my part? In hindsight, I think so.
Regardless of the expense, if I had to do it over again, I would make it a priority and not stop until I had what I needed to help lessen my depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, depression doesn’t go away because we ignore it – does it?
Today, I pay less attention to how I look to the world and a lot more attention to how I feel inside about myself. One of the ways I take care of myself is with the use of natural lighting so I place my desk near a window. In addition, I have an OttLite floor lamp and keep it on all day while I work. I also have an OttLite desk lamp put away for one of my grandsons should they ever find a need for this type of lighting.
Bonus • 8 Excellent Tips to Naturally Relieve SAD
Here are some quick and easy ways to naturally relieve SAD in your life.
🌞 Spend at least 20 minutes outside every day.
👢 Move your body and exercise regularly.
⚡️ Arrange your home interior to get the most natural light.
🌱 Bring the outside In with gallons of greenery.
😷 Avoid processed foods whenever possible.
🥒 Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit.
👩🍳 Cook with Turmeric regularly.
💦 Turn to essential oils for relief from depression.
Bonus • The News about SAD
All Other Images Courtesy of Canva.