Some people wonder if wintertime depression — or Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD) — is “real.” To those who may have doubt, I say, “Hey, buddy, it’s below zero outside! The inside of my nose freezes when I’m outside for more than one minute!”

Seriously, our bodies are getting about 1/20th of the amount of sunlight we get in the summer. We don’t have nice fresh food or flowers from the garden. The heated air is dry. It’s hard in the cold to get all the movement and exercise we need, so our bodies stiffen up. SAD as a physical condition is very real. Some people’s constitution causes them to react more strongly to the season’s challenges than others.

If you suffer from SAD, then the wintertime is tough for you, because you feel much more depressed, lethargic and/or irritable. You may have physical symptoms, such as uncomfortable changes in digestion, appetite or sleep. It can be more difficult than usual to concentrate and accomplish things.

Holistic treatments for SAD include light therapy, exercise, sauna, flower essence therapy, energy work, stress management & psychotherapy as needed. I’ll address each of these very briefly.

Light therapy means that you use a product to give your eyes some full-spectrum light. This can be achieved by using full-spectrum light bulbs in your house. The bulbs need to be full spectrum, not just the light blue bulbs that reduce the yellow spectrum. Many people who suffer from SAD make the investment to purchase a full-spectrum light box. This provides more intense light therapy than just using the light bulbs. Don’t feel like this purchase is out of your budget. There are many different models in varying prices ranges — even light visors. Check on eBay and Craigslist for used bargains. That is how I bought mine a couple years ago, and I have to say that I notice the difference in how I feel on the days I don’t make time to give myself a little light therapy.

The cold can really slow down your body’s chi (life force energy) and all of your physical systems. Exercise and such practices as regular use of a sauna become imperative to keep things moving. I had never been in a sauna before I moved to Minnesota. Now, any gym I belong to must have one. It’s a requirement! Energy work like Reiki or Qi Gong also can work on a different level to keep your energy moving, despite the months-long deep freeze.

In my practice, I specialize in flower essence therapy. Flower essences are not aromatherapy, so please don’t confuse them. Flower essences are unique remedies made from the flowers of plants and trees. Flower essences help ease all sorts of emotional, energetic and spiritual challenges. Just one example of a flower essence that can help us survive the winter is FES’s Illumine formula. There are many other helpful flowers to choose from. Remember, we don’t have access to fresh flowers during the winter, so flower essences are like summer in a little bottle!

Stress management or holistic psychotherapy can be very beneficial for those who suffer from SAD. Holistic counseling can help you learn to better communicate with your body and understand what it needs most. When in the throes of SAD, it can be difficult to piece apart which feelings are truly emotional and which have physical causes.

The winter is a big challenge for many of us. We need to treat ourselves with kindness and patience and realize that it’s okay if we need to give ourselves some extra support when the weather is frigid.

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Kyra Mesich, Psy.D., is an innovative holistic health practitioner, the creator of Empathic Awareness Psychology, and author of The Strength of Sensitivity. Her passion is helping sensitive people find their power and happiness in life. Dr. Kyra’s practice incorporates ancient wisdom with leading edge holistic thought. She works with clients in Minneapolis and Woodbury, MN, and by phone. To learn more, visit www.drkyra.com. Contact Kyra at hello@drkyra.com or call 612.568.3538.

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