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Combat SAD and Experience JOY this Winter

SAD 330According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about 2 to 3% of Canadians will experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, in their lifetime, and another 15% will experience a milder form of the winter blues. Feeling low can have a profound impact on our daily functioning, and as Christians, it is ours' and God's desire and that we share His light, joy, and love everywhere we go! It can be a challenge, though, when external factors are influencing our mood and feelings. How can we counteract symptoms of SAD and experience JOY this winter? 

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

SAD is a kind of depression that appears at certain times of the year. It usually begins in the fall when the days get shorter and lasts through the winter.

Symptoms include:
  • I feel like sleeping all the time, or I’m having trouble getting a good night’s sleep
  • I’m tired all the time, it makes it hard for me to carry out daily tasks
  • My appetite has changed, particularly more cravings for sugary and starchy foods
  • I’m gaining weight
  • I feel sad, guilty and down on myself
  • I feel hopeless
  • I’m irritable
  • I’m avoiding people or activities I used to enjoy
  • I feel tense and stressed
  • I’ve lost interest in sex and other physical contact

According to the Mayo Clinic, the simplified reason some of us experience SAD is because our internal clocks respond to less sunlight in several way - one of which, is that our serotonin levels drop due to less sunlight. Since serotonin affects our moods, the decrease can lead to depression.

How can we combat these feelings?
Carolyn Dale Newell from put together a fantastic list of options we can use to combat the blues and symptoms of SAD experienced at this time of the year. Click the link above for more info, or read the list, below.

1. Light Therapy
For the most severe cases, the Mayo Clinic recommends light therapy. Consult your primary care doctor to learn more. They will likely have a certified clinical psychiatrist you can consult for more specific treatment.

2. Medication
Antidepressants carry a stigma, especially in the church. However, they work well for many people. Have a discussion with your primary care doctor or psychiatrist about them. And don't forget, if Jesus used fish and loaves to feed five-thousand people, Jesus can use therapy and medication to aid your healing.

3. Vitamin D
Get more Vitamin D from the sun and foods rich in vitamin D. Even on a cloudy day, the sun’s rays reach us. Spend time outside even if you have to bundle up. I love going for walks, and I always find myself in a better mood when I get outside.

4. Controlled Indulgence
Treat yourself to something nice. Sip on some hot chocolate or hot apple cider. Perhaps, every now and then you allow yourself to have a special dessert. This doesn’t mean stuff yourself full of carbs, but it’s just a small indulgence.

5. Something to Look Forward To
Create something to look forward to. When the Hallmark Christmas movies begin, I try to end my day early so I can watch the evening movie. Not a fan of Hallmark? Try reading a book by the fireplace, take a bubble bath, or chose an activity in the evening so you have that to enjoy. It can be in the morning or afternoon if that works better for you.

6. Jesus, the Light of the World

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NIV)

Let’s go back to John 7:2 for the context of this verse. The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was taking place at this time. That means it was late autumn. That’s right, the Feast of Tabernacles occurred during the same time as seasonal affective disorder usually occurs.

During the feast, they had a light ceremony since the daylight hours and nighttime hours were of equal length on the autumn equinox. This light ceremony had a future meaning and a past one too. In Zechariah 14:7, we read that the Day of the Lord will have no night or day.

It also pointed back to the wilderness journey as the Israelites followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to get to the Promised Land (Exodus 13:21).

When we follow Christ, we will never walk in darkness. Even though shorter days give us less physical light, I believe an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ can make up a large portion of that. Yes, we still need to get outside. Yes, we may need medication, but a close communion with Jesus Christ can do things for our mood that nothing else can. Just remember every year when autumn begins: Jesus is the Light of the World.

7. Worship
No matter what the season is, worship heals our sadness. Psalm 42 and 43 exemplify the healing ministry of praise.

Here, we find the psalmist in deep agony, shedding tears both day and night. He asks the question, “Why are you disquieted in me?” Then he responds, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him.” (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

Have you ever tried to praise God when you didn’t feel like praising Him? Have you ever sung to the Lord out of a deep dark place?

Praise has an effect on our pain. It might feel unnatural. It might sound crazy, but praise works like a good medicine. It’s something you can do anytime or anywhere.

Now, you possess more knowledge on why you may feel a little down during the fall and winter days. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you might want to see your doctor. Meanwhile, you can implement the practical tips of treating yourself and getting outside.

Most importantly, you can spend time with the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. You can rest in the fact that Jesus is more than a light ceremony, but He is the Light that never dims.

While you spend time with our Lord, you can give Him some praise. Put on some worship music. Sing an old hymn. Soak in the light from the Light of Jesus.



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