Is Seasonal Affective Disorder Affecting You?

By Carol Phillips

Do you dread moving the clock back in the fall or is this practice just a minor inconvenience for you? For people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, the days suddenly becoming darker an hour earlier causes great disruption to their mental health. Combine this with less sunlight and spending more time indoors due to the colder weather, and it becomes easier to find people who are struggling to maintain a positive outlook. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is “a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.” Patients sometimes report episodes of SAD in the summer, although this is less common. Women 20 years and older are at greatest risk for the disorder. 

Symptoms of SAD often include:

?  Feeling depressed daily or several times each week

?  Losing interest in favorite activities

?  Feeling hopeless or worthless

?  Poor concentration

?  Lack of energy

?  Feeling overwhelmed or irritated

?  Weight loss or weight gain

?  Sleep problems, including too little or too much sleep

?  Feeling a sense of doom or having suicidal thoughts

What can you do to address this problem? 

First, reach out to your primary health professional to report your concerns and obtain information and recommendations based on your health history. Often, patients are referred to a mental health professional with experience in helping people with this specific disorder. 

While professional help is often a critical component to making progress, you should also feel empowered to find what works best for you to combat any symptoms of depression or seasonal affective disorder. For most, the answer lies in a combination of therapies and behavior changes. Be on the lookout for the seemingly simple changes that may make a significant difference in your life. For example, getting outside for even a daily 10-minute walk can improve your outlook. For now, enjoy the cooler air and lower humidity as well as the stunning Fall colors. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this year it’s been even more important to get outside when it’s light out. A weekly phone call, Skype, or Zoom chat with a kind friend or family member can be an important element of your treatment. Is there a color you love or a certain scent that makes you calm and happy? Incorporate your favorites into your daily or weekly environment. 

Pets have also been reported to not only improve a sense of calm and happiness, but also reduce blood pressure. What combination works best for you? What changes spark a sense of hopefulness in your mind? Find them and implement them as often as possible for better mental health.

The risk of suicide and attempted suicide is greater for people who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. If you or someone you know is at risk, reach out to your health professional or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

You can also text HELLO to 741741. 

Many people suffer from mental health issues and trained professionals are ready to help you overcome any painful thoughts and feelings you are experiencing. Don’t hesitate to reach out! Help is available, whether it’s professional or from your friends and family. You are not alone.

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.

Get Out! The Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

By Carol Phillips

In the past few months, there has been much discussion regarding spending time outdoors, while attempting to remain healthy and safe during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond. Is it safe to be out of my home? What is the risk of exercising outside among people who are not immediate family members? Should I wear a mask?

As with other threats to our health, some of the answers can vary depending on the situation and each person’s risk factors, such as age and pre-existing conditions.
This pandemic has created an opportunity for people to learn more about the importance of hand washing and simple steps we can take to control the spread of germs to reduce infections and disease.

COVID-19 has also sparked countless conversations regarding balancing risks and benefits. For example, do the benefits of being outside outweigh the risks of being near people who may be infected?

The answer lies in assessing each situation to consider the factors involved, including:

? The specific situation: How many people and who will be present? How much distance will there be between individuals? Will they be wearing masks? Does the activity present opportunities for a greater chance of the virus being spread, such as people handling the same surfaces?
? Current local, state, and federal laws and guidelines.
? Prioritizing your mental and physical health.
? Your personal comfort level: Our natural instinct typically guides us well.
? Personal responsibility for not increasing the risk of others becoming ill.

Many people are feeling the negative effects of what many people are calling “isolation fatigue”—feeling irritated, depressed, or just plain bored from spending so much time indoors away from other people. Being outdoors provides numerous benefits to our mental and physical health. Here are a few benefits to consider:

? Fresh air. Every cell in our bodies needs oxygen. Being outside, especially closer to oxygen-producing trees and plants, helps to maintain health and helps us feel alert.
? Sunshine. Although we should wear sunscreen to protect our skin from the negative effects of the sun, spending time outdoors provides light therapy, reducing the chance of feeling depressed. Exposure to the sun is also the best way for our bodies to get Vitamin D, which helps with proper brain function and bone health, among other benefits.
? Exercise. People tend to move more when they are outdoors, even if they are not outside for the express purpose of exercise. Also, the great outdoors provides wonderful opportunities to participate in a wide range of physical activities, including walking, running, biking, hiking, playing sports, or a simple game of hide-and-seek in your own yard!
? Connecting with others. The outdoors can offer the space required for people to spend time together while maintaining the recommended six-foot distance between people.
? On the other hand, spending time alone. Being self-isolated with immediate family members 24/7 can create issues due to “too much time together.” Getting outside alone can give us a chance to clear our minds and feel less irritable. If you’re working from home, talking even a short walk is a great way to take a break during the day.
? Connecting with nature. There’s something primal and wonderful about connecting with nature. Listening to the sounds and appreciating the beauty all around us can help us adopt a more positive frame of mind! Even planting a small garden, container or other, can brighten your day. Plus, you’ll be outside watering and tending to the garden.

Are you spending enough time outdoors? Even doing something as simple as reading a book in the yard can be healthier than reading indoors. People who spend time every day outdoors are shown to have a higher degree of overall health. Are you one of them? If so, great! If not, embrace the great outdoors and enjoy all the benefits nature has waiting for you!

Carol Phillips is a national health and wellness expert, the award-winning author of 52 Simple Ways to Health, and the radio host of Ask Coach Carol. Her company, Health Design, helps businesses significantly reduce costs and increase productivity by prioritizing health, wellness, and safety practices. Health Design is a SHRM Recertification Provider. Based in Manchester, NH, she can be reached through her website at HealthDesignNH.com.