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Let’s Combat SAD–Part 2 Light Therapy and Vitamin D

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It’s not something we really talk about or acknowledge. But we should need to.


SAD is a depressive disorder that starts and ends about the same time each year.

For me, it starts about mid to late October, when the temps drop and the daylight hours start getting noticeably shorter, and ends in late March to early April.

Interestingly, there’s a strong correlation between the distance you live from the equator and the length and severity of your SAD. Meaning, as a Minnesota girl, my SAD tends to be much more severe and longer lived than it is for those who live in Jacksonville, FL or Houston, TX, But it’s not as severe as it is for those who live in Thunder Bay, Canada or Anchorage, Alaska. This has to do with the tilt of the earth during this time of year.

Over the years, and especially in analyzing the severity of my SAD last year, I realized the diminishing daylight hours combined with the over abundance of cloudy days and frigid temperatures creates a toxic concoction that slowly erodes my positive mindset and upbeat personality. And frustratingly, I have ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL over these factors.

However, God has given us SOME things WE CAN control, and those things can make the difference between sinking and swimming.

We talked about the dangers of isolating ourselves when we’re depressed and in the throws of SAD in Let’s Combat SAD–Part 1. And we’ll talk about the rest of the things we can do to manage and minimize the severity of SAD today and in future posts.

However, through this series I’m going to continuously remind you of the importance of clinging to Jesus during this time and as you incorporate other things we’ll talk about. Beloved, He’s the Only One who can keep up from going under completely and permanently.

Unfortunately, there’s no specific cause to SAD. Nothing we can point to and say, “this is it.” I believe it’s a combination of things that accumulate, build on each other, and fester into something ugly that has the power to take us down into a very dark place. A place I resided in last winter and have no desire to go back to again. (read more about that here)

However, most of us who wrestle with SAD are greatly affected by the reduction in sunlight. Not just daylight.

This makes sense as our daylight hours significantly diminish from the Autumnal Equinox (September 22) to the Winter Solstice (December 21). And although it’s great to know our daylight light hours slowly increase from December 21 to the Summer Solstice (June 20), it’s important to note from mid-October to early March we have a significantly higher number of cloudy days in comparison to the rest of the year. And as you can imagine, that has a profound affect on us.

The first thing that diminishing sunlight messes with is our Circadian Rhythm, or internal biological clock. No, I’m not talking about baby-making (maybe another time). I’m talking about our internal clock that tells us when it’s time to go to bed at night and get up in the morning. This is even more pronounced in those who go to school or work in the dark and come home in the dark during our long winter months. Those who rarely see the sun because they’re stuck indoors during the limited daylight hours and have little or no access to windows.

Second, diminishing sunlight means diminishing Vitamin D absorption. This is compounded by the fact we in north spend most of our time indoors due to the frigid temps, and when we do go outside we tend to cover every square inch of skin in an effort to stay warm.

According to Medical News Today, Vitamin D has many important functions, including:

Mayo Clinics tell us, Vitamin D is also a driver for some very important cycles in our day-to-day-lives such as

Also according to Mayo Clinics and my personal experience, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to:

And, if you’re like me, all of these things only enhance and exasperate depression—especially the weight gain.

My symptoms start out small and slowly progress from there.

It begins with little things I can (and often do) brush off as this or that. However, after a bit, my symptoms become harder and harder to brush off until, and then before I know it I find myself sliding into a deep dark pit.

So, last Spring I prayerfully looked back at the past few winters and asked God to reveal my pattern. To make me aware because, as we all know, awareness is key to breaking a pattern.

The first thing I feel is a heaviness in my mood. A tiredness. A sluggishness that’s not normal for me. This is different and beyond the weariness from prolonged seasons of busyness. It’s not something a day off, nap, or a few extra hours of sleep can fix. I have a harder time maintaining a positive outlook and a “get after it” mentality. My personality dulls and I want to withdraw more.

There’s also a distinct increase in my cravings for carbs and sugar—anything to give me a boost to make it to or through the next thing. Never mind the “crash” that takes me lower than I was before.

Next I start to slow down, physically. I don’t move as much, walk as much, do as much. I lose my gumption. Sit-itis takes over. And it takes a tremendous amount of effort to exercise, but when I do I feel SO MUCH better.

Then I start to put on weight which always makes me more depressed.

And all this happens in the chaos before Thanksgiving and Christmas. So when Christmas arrives, I’m already wrestling with depression and find little joy in the Season of Joy.

And from January forward it just gets dramatically worse.

What I am doing now

This fall I became the proud owner of a light therapy lamp!

Ideas For you:

I take supplemental Vitamin D all year:

For You:

I take Melatonin supplements all year:

For You:

Talk to your doctor first

Remember to stay connected to people. Ask friends and loved ones to keep you accountable about taking your supplements and/or using your light. If they know you well, they’ll know if you’ve hung out with your light or not and whether you’ve taken your supplements or not. That external feedback is vital! These people can help you be more aware of your symptoms and progression as they are on the outside looking in and can’t write them off as something else (like I tend to do).

Blessings, xoxo

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