The holidays have passed and all the hoopla and running around is past. Its cold and the days are short. This is when many become susceptible to the “Winter Blues”. However, for many people these short dark days can bring on something more significant. Although we have past the winter solstice and are moving back toward the light, we spend much of the time without significant sunlight during the winter months.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, as many as 25% of people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD to varying degrees.
SAD is a depression brought on by a decreased exposure to light. Sad has a long list of symptoms which may occur in any combinations including, fatigue, weight gain, oversleep, decreased motivation to socialize, and comfort food cravings. If you simply find yourself not enjoying the things that you normally do…that too is a common sign.
While still being investigated, researchers are considering a gene mutation in the retina of the eye as a possible explanation for the condition. The mutated gene causes an imbalance in the pineal gland. This in turn leads to increase secretion of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep regulation.
What You Can Do
- Increase your exposure…Get more light
“Light therapy is the most effective way to treat SAD,” says Stephen Josephson, Ph.D., clinical associate professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.” Just buy a light box and sit in front of it for about 30 minutes each morning .” Even cheaper….sit in front of a window facing the sun [that’s what I have started doing and I can feel the difference!]
The eyes play a crucial role in regulating the biochemistry and rhythms of the brain and body. “For some people, their retinas are insensitive and therefore need more light to maintain normal functionality .”, Josephson says. The more early morning sunlight that enters your eyes, the less melatonin your body produces, making you less lethargic for the rest of the day!
Seasonal Affective Disorder brings with it a major diet wrecking symptom: the urge for high carb foods! Be on guard…”It’s like a drug,” Josephson explains. ” There may be some short term anti-anxiety effects, but over time it has some negative effects, too.” Don’t let a sudden urge derail your long term health and fitness goals.
Josephson states, “Inactivity hurts anyone prone to mood problems, Activities that make you feel accomplished or productive are helpful.” “The effects of exercise on mood is well documented. You have to exercise every day to see an effect on depression,” he adds.
Use these helpful tips to stay energized and happy…and don’t forget the effects of regular chiropractic adjustments have in helping your brain and body communicate!
Treat Holiday Shopping as an Athletic
• Stay hydrated! Drink eight to ten 8-ounce
glasses of water a day. (Coffee, tea, soft drinks
and alcohol are diuretics/dehydrators. Don’t
substitute them for water.) On shopping days,
you may need to drink even more water. Be
sure to stretch before and after a long day of
• When you are stressed-out, your muscles are
less flexible than usual.
• Wear shoes with plenty of cushioning in the
soles to absorb the impact of walking on those
hard shopping mall floors. According to recent
studies, 60% of women report wearing shoes
that are uncomfortable.
• Make sure the clothing you wear is as comfortable
as possible. It’s a good idea to wear layers,
because you may be going from a cold
environment (outdoors) to a warm environment
• Leave your purse at home. Wear a light fanny
pack, or if necessary, a light backpack instead.
Pack only those items that are absolutely
essential (driver’s license, credit card, etc.).
• If you start to feel some pain, nip it in the bud.
Apply an ice bag to the affected area for 20
minutes, then take it off for a couple of hours.
Repeat a couple of times each day over the
next day or two.
“During the holiday season, we’re running at absolute
maximum capacity, which can lead to stress and even
depression,” says Dr. Bautch. “Why do so many
people become depressed around the holidays? We
need to stretch and stay hydrated to increase our
capacity, so we are not overwhelmed by the activities
of the season.”
Plan Frequent Breaks During Your
• During a day of heavy shopping, most people
should take a break every 45 minutes. Those
with less stamina may even need to take a
break every 20-30 minutes. If you work in a
physically demanding job where you are accustomed
to being on your feet most of the day,
you may be able to get away with taking less
• If possible, obtain a locker. Lockers can help
cut down dramatically on how much you have
to carry around. You can take a load off by
scheduling trips to your locker into your breaks.
• If your mall or shopping center doesn’t offer
lockers, try to plan trips to your car. Don’t carry
around more than is absolutely necessary at
• When taking breaks, try to eat light foods. A
salad and some fruit is a much better option
than a burger and fries.
• Skip the coffee break! Coffee and sodas contain
caffeine and sugar, which add even more
stress to your body. Pass on the designer coffee
at the java stand and keep drinking water.
“We actually need to eat better than normal during the
holiday season,” explains Dr. Bautch. “On average,
people gain five to six pounds during the holidays. And
heart attacks occur more often during the holidays as
well. Eating a heavy meal and then running out on an
exhausting shopping trip can be very dangerous.”
Shopping With Children
• If at all possible, DO NOT bring a child or children
along on a holiday shopping trip. Most
children simply do not have the stamina for
such an event, and you and your child will only
become frustrated with one another. Don’t add
this type of stress to an already stressful situation.
• Try to split “child duty” up with a spouse or
another parent. They’ll watch your kids while
you shop, and vice-versa.
“Shopping with children is just a bad idea,” says Dr.
Bautch. “If your hands are loaded with shopping bags,
you may not be able to hold your child’s hand, which
could increase the chances he or she might wander
away from you. Take whatever steps necessary to not
have to bring your child along.”
Wrapping Your Gifts
• Since there is no “ideal” position for wrapping
gifts, the most important thing to remember is
to vary your positions. For example, try standing
at a table or countertop for one package,
sitting on a bed for another, sitting in a comfortable
chair for another, etc.
• Do not wrap packages while sitting on the
floor. Wrapping packages while sitting on a
hard floor can wreak havoc on your posture,
and should be avoided.
• Always stretch before and after you wrap gifts.
“When wrapping presents, it’s a good idea to ‘stretch
the opposites,’” says Dr. Bautch. “In other words, if
you are leaning forward when wrapping your gifts,
stretch backward when you are done.”
For more information on prevention and wellness, or to
schedule an appointment call 610-489-3600.
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