Sam Bauman: Don’t be SAD during the winter



Your life partner may be excited about cold morning and snow on the ground, but you find winter with feelings of grouchiness and depressed. You may wonder what’s wrong with me, why am I in such a state of funk?

According to the Mayo Clinic Newsletter, some 6 percent of Americans share your blues annually. As always, there’s a medical name for it — seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. The problem is time-sensitive, starting in fall and continuing into winter, sapping energy and triggering moodiness. Spring comes and SAD disappears.

But there are ways to avoid SAD’s triggering of tiredness and irritability, the heavy feeling of arm and legs and inability to get enough sleep ... cravings for carbs and weight gains. Plus, SAD can temper your relations with others, bring about reducing your usual social activities, reducing time spent with others.

The cause of SAD isn’t known as yet, but there are some key factors, Mayo reports. One factor is reduced sunlight triggers winter-onset SAD. And it’s more common the farther one lives from the equator. A loss of sunlight can upset your internal clock triggering a biochemical clock leading to depression. A shift in your circadian clock can disrupt the production of melatonin that helps promote sleep.

Although you may want to hide in a closet on SAD days, there are more practical approaches. First, check in with your doctor about your symptoms. There may be physical problem involved that needs treatment. Also, discuss sleep patterns and appetite changes or thoughts you may have had about suicide or alcohol use.

Some treatments include light therapy. Here one sits a few feet from a special light box during the first hours of waking up. This mimics natural outdoor light and changes brain chemicals linked to good feelings. It starts working in a few days. Check with your doctor for which model is best for you.

Home remedies can also help. Make your home brighter and sunnier by opening blinds, sitting close to windows, trimming tree branches that block sunlight or adding skylights to the home. Even on cloudy days, outdoor light can help, especially if you get outdoors in a couple of hours of waking up. Exercise and physical activity relieve stress and anxiety, both with which increase SAD symptoms. They can also make you feel better about yourself, which can lift your mood.

That’s advice from the Mayo Clinic Health letter. You could also take up skiing.

Reading for the holidays

We’re all usually pretty busy this time of year, what with gift shopping, parties and entertainment. But there are often those hours when nothing seems to be happening. Books can often serve well to fill those slow moments. They can be tied to the holiday, or they can be general interest. I always try to read something by Charles Dickens around December, perhaps his “A Christmas Carol,” or his account of the French revolution in “A Tale of Two Cities.

Some others you may have forgotten about or never read:

Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of life in Paris in the 1920s and ’30s, “A Moveable Feast,” is suddenly a big seller in Paris as residents want to remember the days before terrorists stuck. Hemingway is said to have remarked, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it always stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in Paris during my days as a newsman in Europe and I know what Hemingway was talking about. The attack on Paris was an attack on us all.

As I have written recently, two fine books, one new (“Go Set a Watchman”) and one old (“To Kill a Mocking Bird,”), both by Harper Lee. “Mockingbird” is a story of a girl of 8 in a Southern town growing up with her father Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man amid general hostility. Atticus is a hero to her.

“Watchman” is the girl back in town after living in New York City. On the surface it seems that Atticus was less then she remembered, but that’s poor judgment. Both are classics of modern American writing.

A totally different read is “Smiley’s People,” by John Le Carré. It’s a meticulous story of cold was espionage written in flat but brilliant prose, It’s a step farther from his “Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” This is heavy reading, too much for a friend of mine who prefers the Jack Reacher thrillers, but it’s fine writing and a pleasure to read.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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