Let There be Light: Seasonal Affective Disorder is Real!

You open your blinds to see bare and brown tree limbs twisted as if with arthritis, curling gnarled fingers around the few dead leaves that forgot to let go.  The sky is a gray blanket – an impermeable cloud layer that looks like it’s here to stay. And even with the blinds raised, your bedroom is shadowy and let’s face it, gloomy.  You switch on the bedside lamp but it can’t dispel the grayness or the feeling of vague yet palpable sadness that now seems to loom over you.

What you’re feeling is real and it may be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Those in retirement who lack the daily structure and social mandates of a 9 to 5 job can fall prey to SAD -particularly those living in northern climates.  SAD is not to be taken lightly.

What are the symptoms?

Oversleeping

Sleepiness during the daylight hours

Low energy

Trouble Concentrating

Low to no motivation to exercise

Carbohydrate cravings

Weight gain

Withdrawal from social situations

A depressed mood during specific months

 

Time.com defines SAD as, “a form of depression that typically coincides with the winter months,”   They say, “The possible causes of seasonal depression are manifold, but an absence of sunlight appears to play a role. “We know rates of SAD vary by latitude, so they’re much lower in Florida than in Alaska,” (says Dr. Korb, a UCLA researcher). Just as shift work or traveling to a different time zone can profoundly mess with your body’s natural rhythms, the lack of light in winter may create a “dyssynchrony” in your body’s sleep-wake cycles and internal clocks. This in turn may lead to imbalances in your levels of serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters that control your mood, appetite and energy levels.”

Joy here –  When my daughter was in graduate school in London, far away from family and things familiar, she felt out of sorts all winter — depressed, blue, not wanting to do anything social.  She now lives in Amsterdam, yet another dreary city in winter, bitterly cold and dark by 4pm.  The beauty of springtime where tulips burst with vibrant colors is long forgotten, overshadowed by gray skies and a dampness that goes right through your bones.

During her London stay, I bought my daughter a lamp that emits light designed to combat SAD.  Amazon lists no less than 30 different lamps!!  I couldn’t believe it.  They are called “Happy therapy”, ‘Light therapy”, Happylight”, ‘Sun lamp light therapy.” People need sun light; they need to wake up and see blue sky, maybe not every day, but certainly at least a couple times a week.  It affects our moods, our dispositions, our energy levels.

As retirees without the structure we once had, bleak winters, especially post Holidays, are challenging.  If we didn’t have get-up-and-go in the spring or summer, we sure don’t have it in winter!

If you have to stay in a cold climate, help yourself by working on projects, cooking more, making big pots of soup, stews,  casseroles, comfort foods; try your hand at baking, build fires and get cozy; wrap a comfy blanket around yourself, snuggle with someone you love or your cat or dog!

If all else fails, go to a warm climate, even for a long weekend! Sunshine does wonders to lift your spirits and recharge your batteries. Know that this is a very real condition and you need to help yourself get out of it and feel better. Pamper yourself, even if it’s just a facial from your local drug store.

Know that spring will indeed come again.  Even now, those tulips are doing their own light therapy underground, plotting their return when they will  burst forth and lift our collective spirits!

Today’s Takeaway:

-We may be addressing this early with the spirit of Christmas and Chanukah in the air. However, we know that winter is about to set in. We want to prepare because January just plain sucks!  What’s to look forward to after the heightened anticipation of the holiday season?!

-Know that a lot of what we as retirees feel is magnified and it’s okay to feel blue.  The most important thing is to bring yourself out of it and know you are in good company!

As always enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

As the leaves turn…

The end of Summer and the beginning of fall bring mood changes for me.  They always have.  I think about the butterflies I had in my stomach every year at this time.  (1st grade through high school) As soon as the fall issue of TV Guide (which I looked forward to, so I could plan my after homework watching of the new shows) hit the newsstands, it was a signal the carefree days were coming to the end.  The Miss America Pageant (pre-Trump) was always a fixture on tv Labor Day weekend as was Jerry Lewis’ Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.  What kid doesn’t love summer?!  It is a time of long days, long nights, few demands, no hard core schedules, anxiety free and just plain wonderful. September is back to business, like clockwork bringing  with it a quick drop in temperatures (please may that happen this fall!  Sick of humidity and heat!), a more serious air, a determination to make things happen, to accomplish goals, objectives, and stop procrastinating.  (my tax extension that seemed months and months away is almost upon me and reality hits that the IRS is calling!)

When you are retired the end of summer has a different meaning. Other people are preparing to get back to business and you’re left out!  Even though I have a regimen and my days are filled, I am on perpetual time off mode.  I have no one to answer to, but me.  Since I worked part time last fall at my old company, this will be my first fall without a return to the work world.  I know that I must keep my pace, stay busy, continue to fill my days with an itinerary, a plan. If I don’t I will lose momentum, sink into a feeling of despondency, and make my family miserable!  So with a little CBD oil  (a topic for another post!) the right attitude, a positive upbeat me, I am ready for my favorite season.  I married in the fall, my two daughters were born in the fall, apple picking, gorgeous color changes, a need for a light jacket or sweater, sleeping with the windows open, the Jewish Holidays, a time of rebirth and renewal.  I see the fall as that time far more than the new year on the calendar.  So with the right attitude, I will move forward, I will find my new pace, and be mindful that no one can make me feel better, but me.  If I feel a little nostalgic or melancholy, it’s okay, but I won’t allow myself to wallow. Make plans, schedule get togethers with friends who were at the beach all summer, and know that every season brings with it an opportunity to make things happen!

Today’s Takeaway-

. Seasonal change means many things depending on what phase of life you are in.  Make new memories, new plans, try not to get swept up in the way life was pre-retirement.

. Remember people are looking at you as though you’ve got it made! You planned, you saved, you picked your exit!  Make the most of it this fall.  Go bake that cobbler that you never had time to make!

Enjoy the ride

xox Barclay and Joy