If you live in North Dakota, it is possible that you have seasonal affective disorder, or seasonal depression.
Kristin Chaussee, a nurse practitioner at Trinity's Convenience Care Clinic, said that 14 percent of North Dakota's population have seasonal depression.
"Most of the U.S. is 1.4 to 9.7 (percent), but we are 14 percent, which is significantly high," Chaussee said. "(Through) the research I could find, it was the highest in the U.S."
James C. Falcon/MDN - - Kristin Chaussee, a nurse practitioner at Trinity’s Convenience Care Clinic, held a discussion about Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, on Sept. 22. With autumn here and winter approaching, Chaussee suggested that those who suffer from SAD should plan a strategy to fight it.
Seasonal depression, which is also known by the fitting acronym SAD, is characterized by depressive symptoms in the autumn and winter months. Those symptoms could include difficulty in waking up in the morning or having a tendency of oversleeping; overeating, especially indulging in carbohydrates; having a poor sex drive; or crying spells and/or irritability.
Depression such as this could begin to show traces any day, as the first day of autumn was Sept. 23. Since North Dakotans are more prone to the disorder, Chaussee said it is best to prepare and plan for it and to find remedies for the winter blues.
During a discussion on SAD on Sept. 22, Chaussee outlined several ways to help combat SAD.
"If you do a couple of those things, you would see a big difference," she told the group in the discussion. "Just by doing a few of those ... that's pretty easy to do, and you're really getting ahead of the ballgame."
Turn your lights on
"A lot of people try to conserve energy and they don't have their lights on," Chaussee said. In cases like SAD, it is OK to "up your energy bill just a little bit."
The light increases serotonin, a neurochemical that is known to contribute to happiness. Antidepressant medications also alter serotonin levels, as does exercise. "If it's nice enough, go outside for walk," she said.
However, if conditions don't allow for a walk outside, there is another alternative: phototherapy. Phototherapy can be achieved through a SAD light, a box that radiates light which Chaussee said emits more light than is received in direct sunlight.
"The box is the best," she said. "(Psychiatrists) across the country, that's what they recommend the most."
While Trinity no longer carries SAD lights, there is a Web site (www.sadlights.org) which offers reviews of different instruments of light therapy. According to this site, SAD lights could range from under $50 to above $150.
Take a trip
Chaussee recommends going on a trip, or at least saving up for it.
"If you can afford to go to the Bahamas, I highly recommend that in the February-March time," said Chaussee, who planned a trip in December to visit family in Arizona. "If it does help your mental health, it's definitely worth it."
She said that even an inexpensive trip out of town is something that one can look forward to as winter progresses, especially after January, once the holiday rush is over. Of course, vacationing is dependent on the weather.
Planning activities with those you enjoy spending time with is another sure-fire way to beat the blues. Finding a good book or a movie, or perhaps planning a movie or game night are some examples.
"Exercise, exercise, exercise," Chaussee said. "I'm sure you've heard this many times. It will increase the serotonin in your brain."
She recommended exercising four to five times a week. Joining a gym, using exercise videos, or participating in outdoor activities or yoga are some ways to achieve this. In addition to benefiting one's mental health, it will make you feel better physically.
Chaussee also pointed out that if a person with SAD recently went through a divorce or another loss, or perhaps another stressor, "make new beginnings." As one example, she suggested starting new traditions for the holidays.
Chaussee stated that any fatigue that could be misconstrued as SAD could be due to low blood count, thyroid disease or other causes. "Lab work can discern if there is a medical problem causing weight gain or fatigue," she said.
Eating a healthy diet, with exercise and seven to eight hours of sleep a night, is recommended. If all else fails, visit a doctor.
"Your doctor will help you decide," Chaussee said. "People have anxiety in the winter, some have depression, so your doctor would have to find out which would be best for you."