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Archive for Monday, October 3, 2011

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Mind Matters: Tackling SAD

October 3, 2011

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It’s that time of year again. Days grow shorter, and the colder weather will drive a lot of us inside. It is the time of year that many struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. What is so disturbing about SAD is its initial subtleness, slowly meandering through your experience, not revealing its true destination. It seems to start with an experience of some emotional discomfort, then downright edginess, followed by strong depression symptoms and then, in its worst manifestation, near incapacitation. Many seemingly innocuous symptoms such as anxiety, difficulty concentrating, listlessness, etc., may be due to SAD. As a client of ours once said, “It is almost as if internally you start mirroring the external darkness. And there seems there is no way out.”We offer below what has worked for many of our clients. Please note: Medication is an obvious option; however, we have not listed it here. If you want to consider medication, please consult a physician.For almost everyone, a combination of the following options works best. But be sure to consult a physician, naturopath or dietitian.

Herbs: Sam-e; 5-HTP or St. John’s Wort. Though these herbs can be purchased over the counter and do not require a prescription, they can be quite potent and can cause side effects. Monitoring by an appropriate health care practitioner is essential.l

Supplements: D3 (the sun vitamin) and omega-3s (like fish or flax oil). You can get a blood test to determine D3 levels in your body. The latest studies suggest D3 levels are key signs for possible mood disorders and physical illness.l

Exercise: There is no doubt that plenty of aerobic exercise produces essential chemicals for the brain to help fight off depression. Find a way to do 20 minutes or more daily. l

Diet: Stay away from alcohol if you are prone to SAD. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates aggravate depression symptoms. Lean protein, lots of veggies, complex carbohydrates and plenty of water are the key.l

Light therapy boxes: We need about 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight a day. During the winter months this can be very difficult to get. Light boxes emit light that mimics sunlight. Many of our clients with SAD swear by them. These boxes can be expensive. Small portable boxes are available through several Internet sites.l

Brain training: Some helpful technologies are available for SAD. Brain Wave Optimization (www.brainstatetech.com) is a new advanced technology that has helped many of our clients. Biofeedback and neurofeedback have helped some of our clients as well.If you are interested in alternatives to medication and traditional therapy for depression, anxiety, attention problems, eating disorders, sleep issues, or other mental health problems, join us for a free seminar Oct. 27: “Beyond Medication and Traditional Treatment.” For information, contact us directly or watch for details in future issues of GO!

—Ed Bloch, LSCSW, and Jena Bloch, LCMFT, are directors of the Life Enrichment Center in Lawrence.

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