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How to deal with seasonal blues

By Cherie C. Binns RN BS MSCN

Winter is upon us with its shorter days and longer nights, increased activity with holiday and seasonal events, and the added demands on our time with shopping, baking, parties, etc. Many of us, however, do not find this as joyous a time as our friends and neighbors do. We can be beset by fatigue, changes in appetite, a desire to curl up and “hibernate” so to speak. We might be more irritable, sleep less well, or have less control of our emotions. The good news is that this is not something we have to live with every year if we identify why we are feeling this way and take action. It is possible all this is caused by seasonal affective disorder or SAD.
 
Seasonal affective disorder is a real and treatable problem that at first may look to some of us as if our MS is acting up. It saps energy. It wreaks havoc with sleep. It changes appetite. Perceptions of people and places can be altered. Everything may start to ache. We may think we are having a relapse due to the pain, changes in mood, possibly even distortion in vision. In the low light of these late autumn days and early nights and the continuance of this through the next several months, we tend to retreat from life, retreat to our homes or our rooms and not venture out and engage in the more social offerings of this time of the year.
 
There are many ways to handle these symptoms depending on the severity. Take advantage of available sunlight and do as much as you can outdoors or in natural light rather than artificial light. Invest in a special mood enhancing lamp to illumine your work or reading area. Invite people to be a regular part of your life or take it upon yourself to contact friends and family by email, phone or for a quiet meal. Ask your doctor whether your vitamin D levels may need to be supplemented. In more pronounced cases of SAD, an antidepressant can be invaluable in lifting mood and making life more enjoyable.
 
If you are one of the many persons who suffer from the “winter doldrums” remember:
 
  • You could be suffering from a very treatable recognizable disorder.
  • You may benefit from more time spent outdoors in natural daylight.
  • You may benefit from supplementation of vitamin D. Ask your doctor about this.
  • You can have fun without a lot of time or expense and nurture the friendships that bring joy to your life.
  • You can say “no” to traditions or events that have become unwieldy or exhaustive to you.
  • You can minimize decorations and still have a lovely home.
  • You can take control by making lists of what is important to you to be involved in.
 
May this winter bring you joy and peace and health and renewal of friendships and deepening of relationships as you learn to prioritize and care for your needs while giving of yourself to those you love.