Over the past week or so, we’ve witnessed or experienced the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and are still watching for further developments of Irma, Jose, and Katia. Yes, as fall approaches, it is indeed hurricane season. Even though many of us are experiencing a typical “extended” summer with warm daily temperatures, we can feel that nights and mornings are markedly cooler, the days are getting shorter, and the leaves will soon be converting to rich reds, yellows, and oranges, and making their descent groundward. For some, this time of year is a welcome relief to the sweltering heat of the summer. Many folks are looking forward to the State Fair, Halloween or other fall festivals, Thanksgiving, and the excitement of Christmas and Kwanzaa. Many anticipate cheering on their favorite football teams, enjoying tailgating, and snuggling by a warm fire.
However, many others are dreading this time of year, particularly because of the shorter days, along with observing the end of Daylight Savings Time. For about 10 million Americans annually, the greater darkness has an impact on their moods, levels of energy, and loss of interest or pleasure in activities. They may experience sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, social isolation, irritability, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, challenges with concentration, and even thoughts of self-harm. If you have experienced many of these difficulties, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Some of our clients have shared that they have experienced these symptoms at the same time every year without realizing how many others are suffering from the same challenges. If you also experience these challenges as you approach the anniversary of a loved one’s death during this time of year, you might be dealing with grief as well as symptoms of SAD.
You may now be wondering about the most effective interventions for SAD. The most common treatments include broadband light therapy, psychotherapy, and antidepressant medication. Alternatively known as full spectrum light therapy, phototherapy, or a light therapy box, these devices treat SAD by exposing the user to intensive light for about 30-60 minutes per day. Many options are available through online retailers for less than $100. Psychotherapy can be helpful for providing support, guidance, and concrete coping skills for managing these symptoms to minimize their impact on your daily functioning. Antidepressant medication can also be prescribed to support your brain’s neurochemistry in adjusting to these seasonal changes. Also keep in mind that you can be intentional about taking fuller advantage of existing sunlight. For example, you might take a lunch break outside, in an atrium, or near a window. Additionally, plan activities that you can look forward to, and surround yourself with positive affirmations. Your intentions and prayers, supported by other professionals, family, and friends in your village, can help you thrive during these dark days!
In the meantime, make sure your own Emergency Kit is prepared, and be open to ways that you can support others who are suffering in the wake of these hurricanes.
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),
Tonya D. Armstrong