Guest Post By: Katie McBeth
The winter season is in full swing, and many people are finding themselves bundled in for the winter. For nurses, we’re seeing less sunshine, more snow, and possibly daydreaming about future summer vacation plans. Palm trees, ocean, and cocktails!
With the lack of light, decreased temperatures, and increase stress revolving around the holiday season, some of you nurses may be feeling the brunt of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
SAD is normally manifested in lethargy, irritability, lack of interest in everyday activities, and depression. Our brain’s chemistry and biological clock are thrown off by the sudden change in season and lowered exposure to natural light. For nurses on the night shift, you may not even notice a change. But for those who are used to waking up with the sun, the shift in daylight hours may be jarring.
However, there are some easy ways to help manage the internal chemistry of our brains, or at least help mitigate some of the effects. Here are five ways to combat SAD this winter:
1.) Light Therapy
Light therapy is a bit of a placebo effect for our minds. The Mayo Clinic describes it as exposure to artificial light that mimics natural light to brighten our mood and affect our brain chemicals naturally.
Lights that provide artificial, but gentle, illumination can be bought online or in home goods stores. The process is simply to turn on the light while you’re working, so as to simulate a normal exposure to sunlight. Doctors and therapists can help recommend the best times to use light therapy to fight SAD, and the duration. It varies from person to person, but symptoms normally change within a few weeks.
2.) Vitamin Supplements
Our lack of sunlight during the winter often means there is a lack of Vitamin D intake. Taking vitamins can help keep your internal vitamin levels up to their normal levels. Light therapy can help our body produce Vitamin D naturally, according to a study in 1999, but often times nurses don’t have the time to stay in one spot and “soak up the fake sun.” In that case, taking supplements might be the best and most effective option.
3.) Hit the Gym
Exercise is always a keep component to staying in shape and keeping your mind engaged. The release of endorphins during exercise can help keep our brain running smoothly.
Although exercise is a common suggestion for those suffering from depression, it should be noted that depression makes it difficult to get up and do anything at all. Exercise is certainly not a “cure all” for mental illness, but it can help regulate some of the more lethargic effects of depression and SAD.
Making the effort to get up and exercise may feel momentous, but your body will be grateful and your mind will feel peaceful if you can accomplish the task.
Find a gym near you with The Gypsy Nurse Map!
4.) Bundle up and Take a Hike (or Walk)
Nurses may not be able to go on a vacation during the winter time, but we can try to mimic it! One of the many reasons why vacations often feel so refreshing is the brain’s reaction to seeing and absorbing new surroundings. For some it might be over stimulating, but travel nurses thrive in the change in surroundings.
So, while you’re cooped up over the winter, try to bundle up and go on a hike or a walk in a near area around your town. Absorb your surroundings with new eyes, and let you mind appreciate the smallest details around you. If you walk home at night, try to take a different path home. As long as you’re safe, it’ll feel almost like a mini vacation.
5. Look into Medical Help
Of course, depression can hit many people harder than others. Seasonal depression is no different. If you’re suffering from depression at all, it’s best to seek medical help as soon as you can.
Taking medications may be the best option for fighting off the effects of depression and staying motivated to work. There is no shame in taking medication, as long as it is doctor or therapist recommended and prescribed. Mixing the prescriptions with healthy amounts of exercise, hikes, and light therapy could be the best defense available for the most severe cases of SAD.
Whether you’re eager for a little more sunlight, or you’re held down from all the stress of the holidays, don’t let this winter keep you down. Workout, get some vitamin D, and fight off the effects of SAD so you can enjoy the beauty of winter.