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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Coping Tools from an Acupuncturist

We’ve all heard of it – and likely we’ve all experienced some lull in energy and mood during the colder months at some point.
But what is it, really?
Seasonal Affective Disorder usually comes on in autumn and may last all the way to spring. True S.A.D. strikes approximately 6% of the population; while 14% of the population experiences a more mild form of the ‘winter blues.’ Women account for roughly 60-70% of those affected by S.A.D.
Symptoms include:
  • Lethargy, difficulty focusing, hypersomnia (increased sleep)
  • Depression, negative thoughts, decreased social interaction, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, lowered libido
  • Increased food cravings (especially rich, carb-heavy foods), overeating, possible weight gain
  • Anxiety, irritability, restlessness, “cabin fever”
What can I do about it?
  • Acupuncture is a fantastic resource for managing S.A.D. Fine needles inserted into the skin and muscle layers can stimulate hormone release into the bloodstream – including dopamine, seratonin, noradrenaline and norepinephrine. (These are all natural mood enhancers that our bodies produce) 1-2 acupuncture treatments per week is sufficient to produce these desired effects.
  • Regular exercise, especially cardio, to move blood and keep energy up
  • Vitamin D supplement
  • Try to go to sleep and wake earlier, to keep a schedule more in line with daylight hours
  • Limit excessive carbohydrate and sugar intake – when you do get cravings for these things, opt for whole grains, hearty squashes, yams/sweet potatoes, etc
  • Avoid overeating in general, which can lead to low energy and decreased moods
  • Keep an active social calendar – this will help you feel connected and ward off feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Regularly engage in hobbies and creative projects – this will give you an outlet and help you to feel productive and accomplished
  • Spend as much time near windows and outside during daylight hours as possible

Winter can be a tough time, especially in Minnesota where it can be so extreme. Listen to your body and get creative – you may find a new hobby or skill that brings you joy, connect with a new friend that engages you in a way you’ve been lacking, discover the contentment of cooking a nourishing meal for yourself – the possibilities are endless.


Written by Mallory Carlson, L.Ac