As the summer winds down i asked my dear friend and colleague Dr. Wendy Wolfson to give my readers sound advice on how to manage the changing seasons–enjoy this post from our guest writer–
It is estimated that half a million Americans are negatively affected by the changing of the seasons and darkening of the summer light. This transition sometimes makes even the best of us feel depressed, irritable, and tired. As our activity levels decrease, and we take to the indoors, we also lose the benefit of fresh air, sunlight and vitamin D. We become less mobile and motivated which may lead to less socializing, less exercise, increased carb cravings and general lethargy.
In addition to sadness some other signs of “seasonal” depression can be low energy, poor sleep, decreased or increased appetite, isolation, feeling overwhelmed or paralyzed, worthless or guilty.
Here are some keys to staying happy and healthy as summer winds down.
• Simplify your life: clear your desk of all the tasks that you meant to do all summer (pay your bills, clean your house, see your doctors, call that friend or loved one you have been having issues with, get your applications out etc.) This will allow you to enter the fall unencumbered by the emotional baggage that has a way of turning into anxiety and making us feel paralyzed.
• Create a structured environment around yourself: make your fall vacation plans, put together a list of all the things that need to get done in the coming months, set up specific times to meet with good friends or family and dive into the changes you have wanted to make at school or work. As our motivation slows down when the cooler weather sets in, you will already have a plan ready to go so you can continue forward on the momentum you had from the summer.
• Get back on a regular sleep schedule: Poor sleep is a major trigger for a mood disorder. The summer is a time when we are out late enjoying ourselves and we let the bedtime rules slack. Remember how important good sleep hygiene is to a happy mood. Make sure you maintain a regular bedtime, don’t eat or drink after your last meal and clear your bedroom of distractions (no computers or phones near your head and no TVs on.) Lastly, you have to give up that lazy summer afternoon nap. The days are getting shorter and you need to be in bed earlier.
• Eat healthy and get plenty of fluids. The fall is a great time to get fresh vegetables and fruits at the local farm stand. Certain foods have been shown to aid in the fight against mood disorders. Look for foods high in essential amino acids (eggs, red meat, poultry and dairy products), B vitamins (green leafy vegetables, bananas, fortified cereals), and Omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, fresh tuna, yogurt, and flaxseed.) Dont forget my favorite a kale and quinoa salad!
Don’t let what we all love about living in the northeast get you down. The slow approach of the cold weather doesn’t have to be a negative trigger for our mood. Take a little time to plan ahead so that the changing of the seasons signals to our minds that an exciting time is ahead.
Let me leave you with a few thoughts to get you started…..that first breath of crisp autumn air, the smell of the leaves when they change their color, the glow of a sunny day when it reflects off a fresh snow, the warmth of friends and family at the holidays and the hope and opportunity that grows when one year ends a new one begins.
Wendy Elias Wolfson D.O., is a psychopharmacologist in private practice in both Manhattan and New Canaan, CT. She specializes in the medical management of eating disorders, depression, anxiety disorders, and ADHD. She strongly believes that eating healthy, exercising, sleeping well and solid relationships are the first line of defense in the fight against any mood disorder. For more information please visit her website at www.drwendywolfson.com