Category Archive

Lifestyle and Wellness

Pelvic Floor Health

Woman doing butterfly stretch

Have you been told to try Kegels to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles?

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues that form a hammock-like structure at the base of the pelvis, supporting various organs such as the bladder, uterus, and rectum. These muscles play a crucial role in controlling bowel and bladder functions, stabilizing the pelvis, and contributing to sexual function.

When it comes to pelvic health, the term “Kegels” often takes the spotlight. While Kegel exercises play a vital role in strengthening the pelvic floor, there are many exercises outside of Kegels that contribute to a comprehensive pelvic floor therapy routine.

Statistics show that 32% of women will have at least one pelvic floor disorder (PFD) at one time in their life.

The Bridge Exercise: Kegels focus on the pelvic floor muscles, but a holistic approach involves engaging surrounding muscle groups as well. The bridge exercise is a perfect example. Lie on your back with knees bent and lift your hips toward the ceiling. This movement engages not only the pelvic floor but also the core and lower back muscles. By incorporating the bridge into your routine, you promote overall pelvic stability and strength.

Deep Squats: Squats are renowned for their ability to target various muscle groups, and when performed correctly, they can be a valuable addition to pelvic floor therapy. Deep squats engage the glutes, hamstrings, and pelvic floor muscles simultaneously. As you squat into position, ensure proper form to maximize the benefits and strengthen the pelvic floor in a functional way.

Pelvic Tilts: Pelvic tilts are an effective exercise to enhance pelvic mobility and flexibility. While lying on your back with knees bent, gently rock your pelvis backward and forward. This simple yet impactful movement helps activate and stretch the pelvic floor muscles, promoting flexibility and preventing tension buildup.

Butterfly Stretch: Stretching is a crucial component of any well-rounded exercise routine. The butterfly stretch, where you sit with the soles of your feet together and gently press your knees towards the floor, targets the inner thighs and pelvic floor. This stretch promotes relaxation and flexibility in the pelvic region, complementing the strengthening aspects of other exercises.

Diaphragmatic Breathing: Often overlooked, proper breathing techniques play a significant role in pelvic floor health. Diaphragmatic breathing involves deep inhalation and exhalation, allowing the diaphragm to move freely. This type of breathing supports optimal functioning of the pelvic floor muscles and helps release tension.

Remember, the key to pelvic floor therapy lies in diversity — embracing a spectrum of exercises to support a stronger, more functional pelvic floor.

Pelvic floor therapy isn’t just for women.
Men can benefit too!

Navigating Health Abroad

Travel and health items

Traveling abroad is an exciting adventure, but it comes with its own set of health considerations.

To ensure a safe and enjoyable journey, understanding the basics of international travel medicine is crucial. Here’s a comprehensive guide on what you need to know before embarking on your global escapade.

Preparation is Key

Before embarking on an international adventure, thorough preparation is essential. Researching the destination’s health risks, climate, and healthcare infrastructure is a crucial first step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are valuable resources for up-to-date travel health information.

Not all travelers face the same health risks, and that’s where a travel medicine specialist becomes invaluable. These healthcare professionals are trained to assess individual health risks based on the traveler’s medical history, itinerary, and planned activities. They provide personalized advice on vaccinations, preventive medications, and health precautions tailored to the specific travel needs. Make sure to make an appointment with your normal healthcare provider or a travel medicine specialist at least one month before you leave in case a needed vaccination requires multiple doses or required prescriptions can be taken in time for travel.

Vaccinations: Shielding Against Diseases

Different regions of the world pose varying risks of infectious diseases, making immunizations a vital component of pre-travel healthcare. It’s crucial to plan vaccinations well in advance, as some vaccines require multiple doses over several weeks for full effectiveness.

Common vaccinations for international travelers include:

  • Routine Vaccinations: Ensure routine vaccinations, such as measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), are up to date.
  • Travel-Specific Vaccinations: Depending on the destination, additional vaccinations may be recommended. For example, yellow fever vaccination is required or recommended for entry into certain countries such as Mali and Ethiopia; malaria prevention is recommended or required for countries or parts of countries such as Peru and Thailand; and the hepatitis A and B vaccines are often advised for travelers to regions with increased prevalence, such as Belize and Jamaica.
  • Seasonal Vaccinations: Influenza, COVID-19, and other seasonal vaccinations should be considered, especially if traveling during peak transmission periods.

You may be able to get some travel vaccines from your primary healthcare provider. If you need help finding a location that provides certain vaccines or medicines, visit CDC’s Find a Clinic page.

If yellow fever or typhoid vaccines are recommended or required for your destination, you’ll need to go to a vaccine center authorized to give yellow fever vaccinations. Find an authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Health Precautions During Travel

In addition to vaccinations, travelers should use preventive measures to reduce the risk of illness during their journey.

  • Basic hygiene practices, such as frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizers, and avoiding contact with sick individuals, can go a long way in preventing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Safe food and water practices are equally important. Consuming only properly cooked and thoroughly washed food, and drinking bottled or treated water, helps minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses such as traveler’s diarrhea.
  • Avoid petting stray dogs and cats due to prevent rabies exposure.

Access to Medical Care Abroad

Despite careful preparation, unexpected health issues may arise during international travel. Understanding the local healthcare system and having access to medical care is crucial in such situations. Familiarize yourself with the local healthcare system, know the location of medical facilities, and ensure you have access to English-speaking healthcare professionals. Verify that your health insurance covers overseas medical expenses and understand the procedures for seeking medical assistance in your destination.

International travel offers a world of possibilities, but safeguarding your health should be a top priority. By investing time in thorough preparation, obtaining necessary vaccinations, and practicing preventive measures, travelers can minimize health risks and maximize the enjoyment of their global adventures. Remember, a healthy traveler is a happy traveler. Safe travels!

Caring for the Caregiver

Adult woman walking with elderly mother

Caretakers are unsung heroes, dedicating their time and energy to the well-being of others.

However, the demands of caring for a loved one while they’re unwell can take a toll on their physical, emotional, and mental health. Caretaker fatigue — a condition that affects the well-being of those providing care — is not a sign of inadequacy or lack of love; it’s a real and pervasive challenge that requires attention and understanding.

The silent toll of caretaker fatigue can impact their relationships,
job performance, and overall quality of life.

While the focus is naturally on the well-being of the person receiving care, the caretaker often neglects their own needs. This selflessness can lead to a gradual decline in the caretaker’s health, both mentally and physically. The silent toll of caretaker fatigue can impact their relationships, job performance, and overall quality of life.

To address caretaker fatigue, it is important to acknowledge the needs of the caretaker. Often, caretakers feel guilty for considering their own well-being, but self-care is not a luxury — it’s a necessity. Friends, family, and the broader community can help by recognizing the caretaker’s sacrifices and supporting their efforts in maintaining a healthy balance between caregiving and self-care.

Supportive Environment: Caretakers need a robust support system to prevent burnout. Friends and family should actively offer assistance and encourage the caretaker to take breaks, prioritize their health, and seek help when needed. Due to feeling guilty about considering their own feelings, they often will not ask for help themselves. Open communication is key to understanding the caretaker’s needs and providing the necessary support.

Professional Assistance: The caretaker’s emotional well-being is just as important as the physical care they provide. Seeking professional assistance, such as counseling or therapy, can be a transformative step. These services offer a safe space for caretakers to express their feelings, navigate the challenges they face, and develop coping mechanisms for caretaker fatigue. Many employee benefits cover in-person or online therapy to help you or a covered family member needing professional therapy.

Respite Care: Respite care, or temporary relief for caretakers, is an invaluable resource in preventing and alleviating caretaker fatigue. It allows caretakers to take a step back, recharge, and attend to their own needs. Community organizations and healthcare providers should actively promote and provide respite care options to ensure the sustained well-being of caretakers.

By acknowledging the caretaker’s needs, promoting open communication, and providing access to professional assistance and respite care, we can ensure that those who care for others are also cared for in return. After all, who is caring for the caretaker if not the community and society they serve?

Volunteering as Self-Care

Volunteers

According to a study published in the Gerontologist, Middle-aged volunteers are less likely to have abdominal fat and high blood glucose than non-volunteers. They also had healthier levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Older volunteers are less likely to have high blood pressure than their non-volunteer counterparts.

In a world that constantly prioritizes personal achievement, it’s easy to overlook the profound benefits of volunteering for one’s health. Beyond the warm feeling of making a difference, the act of giving back has far-reaching effects on both mental and physical well-being. Here are some of the surprising health benefits and why incorporating volunteering into your life can lead to a happier and healthier you.

Social Connection

Social connection is a key factor in maintaining good mental health, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness, and volunteering provides ample opportunities for social interaction, fostering a sense of community and belonging. As you collaborate with others toward a shared goal, you build a support system that can be crucial during challenging times.

Stress Reduction

Volunteering acts as a natural stress reliever by shifting the focus from personal worries to the needs of others. The act of giving back releases endorphins, the body’s natural mood enhancers, which can create a sense of joy and fulfillment. This positive emotional state can counteract the effects of stress and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

Physical Health Benefits

Believe it or not, volunteering can have tangible effects on your physical health. Studies have shown that individuals who engage in volunteer work experience lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The increased physical activity associated with many volunteer opportunities contributes to improved fitness levels, helping to maintain a healthy heart and body.

Sense of Purpose

One of the key determinants of well-being is having a sense of purpose in life. Volunteering provides a meaningful way to contribute to the greater good, instilling a sense of purpose and fulfillment. When individuals feel that their actions make a positive impact on the lives of others, it can lead to increased life satisfaction and a more positive outlook.

Cognitive Benefits

Engaging in volunteer activities often requires the development of new skills and the ability to adapt to different situations. This cognitive stimulation can lead to improved brain function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline as you age. Whether you’re learning new tasks, problem-solving, or collaborating with others, the mental agility required in volunteering contributes to the maintenance of cognitive health.

From fostering social connections to reducing stress and contributing to a sense of purpose, volunteering is a holistic approach to health that not only benefits the community but also enhances the quality of your own life. So, the next time you consider how to invest in your well-being, remember that volunteering might just be the prescription for a happier and healthier you.

Ready to volunteer? Sites like https://www.volunteermatch.org/ and https://www.unitedway.org/get-involved/volunteer# can help upcoming opportunities in your area and abroad.

Cognitive Crossroads

In 2019, dementia cost economies globally 1.3 trillion US dollars, approximately 50% of these costs are attributable to care provided by informal carers (e.g., family members and close friends), who provide on average 5 hours of care and supervision per day.

Degenerative memory disorders pose a considerable challenge for millions globally. These conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and various forms of dementia, present significant hurdles for both the patient and their families and/or caretakers.

Degenerative memory disorders constitute a group of conditions characterized by the gradual deterioration of cognitive function, particularly memory loss. Symptoms typically encompass forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulties in performing daily tasks. However, changes in mood and behavior sometimes happen even before memory problems occur. These symptoms progressively erode an individual’s capacity to live independently.

Risk Factors

While genetic predispositions play a role, lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and social engagement also influence the risk of developing these conditions. Ongoing investigations into inflammation, oxidative stress, and other biological mechanisms further our understanding of disease progression.

Impact on Individuals and Families

The repercussions of degenerative memory disorders extend well beyond the affected individual though. Caregivers, often family members, navigate emotional strain, physical demands, and financial burdens as they witness their loved ones undergo profound changes in personality and capabilities. The toll on relationships and overall quality of life for both the patient and their caregivers is immeasurable.

Patients and caregivers alike can benefit from support groups, counseling, and education about the disorder. Establishing routines, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and utilizing memory aids help in coping with daily challenges. Caregivers, in particular, should prioritize self-care and seek assistance from community resources to alleviate the caregiving burden.

Hope on the Horizon?

Despite the challenges, neurology researchers are making strides in understanding and treating degenerative memory diseases. Advances in brain imaging, biomarker research, and genetic studies provide valuable insights. Experimental drugs targeting beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles, common hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, are in various stages of clinical trials. Lifestyle interventions, including cognitive stimulation and physical exercise, are also gaining attention for their potential to slow cognitive decline.

Equity in Every Birth

Young Mothers

According to the CDC, over 80% of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. between 2017 and 2019 were determined to be preventable.

The disparities in maternal healthcare outcomes between Black and white women in the United States are staggering. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, according to the CDC. With alarming statistics like this, Black maternal healthcare in the United States is a critical area of concern for Black women and healthcare providers alike.

One of the primary healthcare challenges facing Black women during pregnancy is access to quality healthcare. Many factors contribute to disparities in access:

  • Geographic Disparities: Black women are more likely to live in areas with limited healthcare infrastructure, which makes it difficult to access obstetric care services and prenatal care.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Socioeconomic disparities often restrict access to healthcare. Lower-income Black women may lack health insurance, transportation, and childcare support, making it difficult to attend appointments and receive timely care.
  • Lack of Providers: The shortage of healthcare providers, particularly in rural and underserved communities, can lead to long wait times and insufficient follow-up care for pregnant Black women. Since January 2010, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed, with a disproportionate share occurring in the South. Between 2004 and 2014, 179 rural counties lost or closed their hospital obstetric services.

Another challenge is ensuring Black women receive unbiased high-quality care during pregnancy and childbirth. Healthcare providers undergo implicit bias training to address the unconscious stereotypes and attitudes that may impact their clinical decision-making. Cultural competency and providing patient-centered care that allows a Black woman to have a say in their healthcare decisions are also essential to providing high-quality care.

How do we address disparities in Black maternal healthcare?

There are several evidence-based solutions, many of which are covered by most insurance plans or supplemental services offered by employers (think Maven and Pomelo):

  • Prenatal Care Programs: Expanding access to comprehensive prenatal care programs that offer education, support, and medical care throughout the pregnancy, helping to identify and address potential issues early. Maternity care is considered “essential health benefits,” so all qualified health plans must cover the care.
  • Telehealth Services: Telehealth can improve access to care, particularly in rural and underserved areas. Offering virtual prenatal and postpartum care can help bridge geographical gaps. More and more insurance carriers are offering telehealth visits for your typical office visit fee, and some have specialty maternity services.
  • Doula and Midwifery Support: Doulas and midwives can provide additional support during pregnancy and childbirth. They often offer emotional, physical, and informational assistance, which can lead to better outcomes.
  • Mental Health Services: Providing mental health support, such as counseling and therapy, can help prevent and manage stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Targeted Education: Education campaigns aimed at improving the health literacy of Black women can empower them to advocate for their health and make informed decisions.

Collaboration among healthcare providers, public health agencies, and community organizations is essential to decrease the disparities in maternal healthcare. Ultimately, the focus should be on providing equitable, high-quality care to all pregnant women, regardless of their race or background.

Daily Functional Exercises

Have you ever walked around the grocery store, stocked up on goodies for a Superbowl party or holiday meal, and then loaded and unloaded the car in a single afternoon and thought, “whew, that felt like a workout?”

It’s because it was — just maybe not in the sense of bodybuilding, running endlessly on a treadmill, or suffering through a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout. And while those options certainly check the box for fitness, there are other means — often more accessible and safer for certain people — that help keep you healthy and mobile.

Functional fitness focuses on and prioritizes replicating and practicing movements we use in our everyday lives. This is important for everyone, but it can be especially critical for those who are aging or struggle with mobility in their daily lives when moving heavier objects, carrying groceries, or even tossing a ball or swinging a bat while playing baseball with friends. Functional exercises help build flexibility, balance, and strength, improve athletic performance, and prevent injuries by moving large groups of muscles across your body rather than targeting a specific body part. The goal of the exercises is muscle movement.

Here are some examples of functional fitness exercises:

Farmer’s Walk

This exercise is quite simple. It requires you to pick up a weight in each hand (dumbbells, kettlebells, soup cans, bags of potatoes, etc.) and walk — that’s it! You want to make sure you use good form while picking up the weight, keep your shoulders back and posture tight, keep your core engaged and head up, and take even, manageable steps (leading with your hips).

Incorporating the Farmer’s Walk into your routine will help challenge and build your arms, shoulders, core, and grip strength, as well as your quads, hamstrings, and calves lower down.

The Farmer’s Walk is the definition of a functional exercise because who doesn’t have to lift, carry, and move objects from place to place? We do this when pulling out or putting away holiday décor, grocery shopping, or even carrying loads of laundry around the house.

Once you get comfortable with the Farmer’s Walk and want to increase the difficulty, try carrying heavier weights or lengthening your steps.

Squats

Mastering one of the most fundamental functional exercises — squats — will lend itself to so much to your daily activities. The movement, strength, and skill you get from squats can help when you are getting off the ground, picking up larger or heavier objects, or even doing yard work. Squats can help target your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and shoulders.

A simple bodyweight squat is a great starting point. You stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower into a squat by bending your knees (don’t let them go further out past your toes) while shifting your hips back. While you’re moving down into the squat, extend your arms out in front of you to help maintain balance and work your shoulder movement. You want to try to keep a straight back the whole time since the movement is coming from your hips and lower.

There are so many variations of the squat, and you can modify it for where you are in your fitness journey. An assisted bodyweight squat is a good place to begin if you are nervous about your overall mobility and balance. You hold onto a stable fixture (like a fixed pole or ballet bar) while you get comfortable with the squat movement. You can also do a wall squat, where you keep your back pressed up against the wall as you squat down. This helps you focus on form and not strain your lower back.

If you’re looking to up the challenge, try holding weights while doing your squats, or consider a jump squat. The jump squat will have you jump up into the air when you come out of the squat and then land carefully before quickly squatting back down again. Be sure you have enough skill for this progression and are using proper form when landing on your feet so you don’t cause an injury.

Other Functional Fitness Movements

There’s no shortage of exercises to choose from when building out a routine — something to keep in mind if you tend to get bored easily. Here are some great examples you can incorporate into your exercising and modify to meet your needs:

  • Lunges (walking, reverse, jump — a variety of options!)
  • Mountain Climber
  • Bear Crawl
  • Pushups (classic, wall pushup, knee pushup, single-arm pushup)
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Planks (traditional, side plank, single-arm plank, dumbbell plank rows)
  • Bridges
  • Burpees

As always, use caution when performing new movements or consult your physician or a physical therapist if you have past injuries or concerns.

Sources:

https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-for-functional-fitness-exercises-and-workout-plans/
https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/how-to-exercise-with-functional-training
https://www.spartan.com/blogs/unbreakable-training/best-exercises-for-functional-strength
https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/functional-strength-training
https://www.oxygenmag.com/workouts-for-women/total-body-workouts-for-women/the-worlds-10-best-functional-exercises

Dry January

There are several reasons someone might participate in Dry January — to kickstart those “be healthier” resolutions, to reset after an overindulgence during the holiday season, to examine their relationship with alcohol, or simply for the sake of participating alongside others.

You can experience a variety of benefits from cutting out alcohol for an entire month, including improved sleep, weight loss, and saving money.

But taking part in Dry January doesn’t need to hinder social activities or restrict your beverage consumption to only water, juice, and carbonated sodas. In fact, mocktails (nonalcoholic cocktails) are becoming more common and getting added to a variety of establishments’ beverage menus.

The secret to a great mocktail is using your imagination (there aren’t any strict rules) and discovering what flavor combinations you prefer. Some staple ingredients to keep on hand when diving into nonalcoholic drink combos include tonic water, sparkling water, seltzer, your favorite garnishes (berries, citrus, jalapeno, etc.), juices (orange, lemon, and pineapple, to name a few), and limes.

Nonalcoholic ginger beer is also a great ingredient to keep on your shelf (or drink by itself), as are bitters. However, be sure to check the labels because bitters can technically be considered alcoholic — though their flavor is so strong that recipes often require a few drops, resulting in no overall alcohol consumption.

If you’re intimidated by the prospect of mixing up a mocktail based on a tried-and-true cocktail, you can start with something easier. In a wine glass filled with ice, pour in your favorite fruit-flavored seltzer water, add a few squeezes of lime juice, and a dash of bitters. It’s crisp, it keeps you hydrated, and it’s certainly not as boring as water straight from the tap!

If you’re looking to step up your alcohol-free drink game, consider one of the recipes below:

Margarita Mocktail

Looking for a mocktail to pair with your chips and guacamole? Try mixing up a batch of these nonalcoholic margaritas featured in Southern Living. In a pitcher, combine 5 cups of your favorite limeade, half a cup of orange juice (freshly squeezed is best), and 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice. Add a pinch (about 1/4 teaspoon) of coarse sea salt and stir until it’s dissolved. Add ice and top up the pitcher with 2 cups of sparkling water or club soda. Pour a serving (this batch makes five!) into a salt-rimmed glass and garnish with lime wedges. If you want to change it up a bit, you can add in your favorite pieces of fruit and fruit juices, or add in some muddled jalapeno to give it some heat.

Rosemary Ginger Mule

Put a wintery (and alcohol-free) twist on the Moscow Mule, also from Southern Living, by whipping up a rosemary ginger mule. You can prepare rosemary syrup by bringing 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated sugar, and 1 cup of rosemary springs (lightly packed) to a boil over medium heat until all the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow the syrup to steep for half an hour while covered. Once you strain the syrup, set aside two tablespoons for your drink, and store the remainder in an airtight container (up to three weeks). In a mug (like the classic copper mule cup) with ice, stir in a 7 oz. can of nonalcoholic ginger beer, two tablespoons of the rosemary syrup, and one tablespoon of fresh lime juice. You can then garnish with rosemary and a lime wheel.

Some More Classics

You can also find ways to enjoy nonalcoholic versions of the more “classic” cocktails. If you want a mock gin & tonic, you can certainly find a nonalcoholic gin to opt for. Another option is to infuse the drink with fragrant spices or botanicals. Chamomile, mint, closes, rosemary, and cardamom are great options. If you’re craving something more tropical, consider a virgin piña colada. Combine pineapple, sugar, and your favorite spices, and then blend with lime juice, pineapple juice, and creamy coconut milk.

If you’re considering joining others in Dry January, don’t look at it as missing out — instead, frame it as a chance to explore new beverage options and tap into some kitchen creativity.

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/about-niaaa/directors-page/niaaa-directors-blog/participating-dry-january-here-are-tips-success

Seasonal Affective Disorder

While the colder months can usher in a number of things many of us enjoy — holiday cheer, new fashions and flavors, and the embracement of all things cozy — for others it can bring a case of the “winter blues.” And while that concept might be dismissed by some, it’s a very real (and in some cases, a very serious) experience for others.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is brought on during certain seasons of the year — typically fall and winter. (If you live in a warmer climate, you might experience SAD in the summer.) According to Cleveland Clinic, about 5% of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, typically starting between 18 and 30 years of age, and it most often affects women.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?

While there’s no clear cause for Seasonal Affective Disorder, the shorter, darker days are believed to trigger a chemical change in the brain that is linked to the depression symptoms experienced. Like most things, the symptoms of SAD can vary in different people. Some of the most common symptoms experienced include increased sleep, withdrawing from socializing, and brain fog.

Symptoms of SAD

Like most things, the symptoms of SAD can vary in different people. Some of the most common symptoms experienced include:

  • Increased sleep, including daytime drowsiness (did you know the sleep-related hormone, Melatonin, is naturally produced more in the body when it’s dark?*)
  • Withdrawing from socializing with others
  • Heightened irritability and anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Brain fog or difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Feelings of guilt or a sense of hopelessness
  • Low energy levels and losing interest in activities typically enjoyed

Ways to treat or prevent SAD

There are a number of steps you can take when trying to ward off SAD, including recommendations worth implementing year-round. To help alleviate symptoms:

  • Exercise regularly (at least three times a week for 30 minutes). It will help you combat stress and anxiety, while also boosting endorphins.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals. This can be difficult with all the holiday festivities that occur in the fall and winter months, and it’s why building healthy food habits year-round is crucial. Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can give you much needed energy. Get enough rest and try to stick with a sleep routine to help regulate your internal clock (which in turn helps to regulate your hormones and mood).
  • Manage stress and enlist the help of a counselor or therapist if needed.
  • Get outside and enjoy the daylight whenever possible (even if it’s cloudy!).
  • Do activities you typically enjoy — whether that’s seeing friends, arts and crafts, going to the movies, playing sports, listening to music, or gardening.
  • DON’T try to make any big decisions or life changes (marriage, divorce, quitting your job) until the SAD has lifted and you can consider the life transitions objectively.
  • DON’T isolate yourself. Even if you don’t feel like going out to social events, be sure to reach out to friends or loved ones regularly.
  • DON’T rely on alcohol or take unprescribed medications as these can worsen your symptoms.

As always, remember that you’re not alone, and it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider or a mental health professional if your symptoms are severe. Other treatments, including possible medications, may help prevent future episodes.

Sources:

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/seasonal-affective-disorder
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9293-seasonal-depression
*https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/seasonal-affective-disorder

Gray Days: Seasonal Affective Disorder

Sad women sitting outside

All of us get the “winter blues” now and again, but for some people, feelings of sadness and exhaustion during fall and winter is evidence of something more serious.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that is linked to different seasons of the year, typically winter, but sometimes summer as well. It’s thought that shorter days and less exposure to sunlight may be a cause, as well as overproduction of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles.

There are multiple potential symptoms of SAD:

  • Sleeping more and feeling tired during the day
  • Loss of interest in doing things
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • General fatigue
  • Brain fog and more

It’s important to note that SAD and general depression are different from feeling sad or “out of it” for a few days. For SAD, the depressive episodes need to line up with specific seasons (usually winter or summer) at least two years in a row. Anyone can develop SAD, though it is more often diagnosed in women and may be more common for people who live in areas with short winter days.

There are multiple avenues for treating SAD. Exposure to sunlight or use of special lights that mimic sunlight can help relieve symptoms. Different forms of talk therapy can help you learn coping mechanisms, and in some cases, vitamin D supplements and antidepressant medications can relieve symptoms. If you experience recurring symptoms of depression during the winter or summer, consider talking to your doctor.

NIMH » Seasonal Affective Disorder (nih.gov)

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – Symptoms & causes – Mayo Clinic