The SAD Regimen – a Guest Post by Dorcas Smucker

SADWhy we need to learn about SAD

Our son and his bride moved to the west coast where winter days are dismal and gray. “It’s dreary out here in the winter,” he told me. The first thing I (THE mom) told him to do was take Vitamin D!

“You both need to take Vitamin D,” I said.

Did they listen? I don’t know because I keep forgetting to ask. Maybe they’ll read this post and start if they have not already.

Couple dreariness with COVID and social distancing, and you’ve got a recipe ripe for depression no matter where you live or who you are. How can transplants to an area learn to know neighbors, find a church, and adapt to a new community, especially in winter when the sun keeps hiding behind clouds? There are things we can do to help us fight depression, seasonal or not.

SAD is a real thing. 

The acronym stands for Seasonal affective disorder. (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.

My friend Dorcas knows about SAD because she lives with it. She graciously gave me permission to share this article she wrote on her blog in December of 2014. It’s just as pertinent today as it was back then. You can follow her by clicking here.  You can read about her books here. You can read another column she wrote about SAD here.

What Works for Me: the SAD Regimen

A number of people have asked me just what my exact regimen is for dealing with SAD. 
I am hesitant to share it for fear someone will take it as a prescription for everyone.
So: the disclaimer–

My symptoms

First of all, here are my SAD symptoms:
1. Fatigue.  I am just….so…..draggy…..and……tired.  It’s hard to work.  I take naps.  I just want to sleep. 
2. Mental fatigue and fuzzy thinking.  What?  I’m supposed to take one car to school and then switch cars and take Jenny to drivers ed?  Huh?  This is just way too complicated.  I find it hard to pray, plan, write, discuss, etc.
3. Obsessing. This one is embarrassing. I will just latch onto one nasty person, one regret of the past, one  comment from Paul that seems slightly insensitive and I will just mull that thing to DEATH.  It’s like I can’t let go until I somehow SOLVE it.  But there’s no solving it because it isn’t really REAL if that makes sense.
4. I crave sugary things and gain weight.
5. I know I should go on walks but just can’t make myself go outside. 
6. I know I should interact with people but I don’t want to go anywhere and I hate talking on the phone. 
7. I spend too much time online, escaping my overwhelming world. 
8. Any job bigger than doing dishes is just huge and overwhelming. 

From SAD to depression

If SAD descends down into the basement and becomes Depression, then I also have these symptoms:
1. Wanting to just hide from the world. 
2. Feeling like I’m falling apart. 
3. Crying a lot at nothing.
4. Being unable to do the basics like washing dishes. 
5. Wanting help but being unable to ask for it. 
Believe me, once you’ve been there and recovered, you don’t ever want to go there again.

What I do

So, this is my regimen, what I try to do as soon as the black cloud rolls in– 

1. 2000 iu of vitamin D a day 

2. 375 mg of St. Johns Wort twice a day.

3. Eat lots of protein and just good food. We all know what’s good for us. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, meat, beans, nuts. Water to drink. And I try to cut out sugar. 

4. I take a nutritional product called Reliv. I take the Classic shake, the SoySentials hormone helpers, and the LunaRich capsules. You buy it through a dealer. 

5. I try to walk outside every day. If I can’t walk outside, I try to work through a Walk Away the Pounds video. 

6. I try to connect with people every day, both inside and out of my family. 

7. I monitor my symptoms and really kick into gear if I see my symptoms getting worse because it’s easy to slack off on the regimen when you start to feel better. 

8. I plan ahead of time to ask for help if I ever start to get depressed again. 

9. In the past I’ve taken 5HTP but eventually was ok without it.  10. Keep reading my Bible every day. It keeps me anchored and helps ward off the guilt and shame. And praying as I’m able.  Thankfully God understands the silent pleas for help when we can’t form words.

Other ideas

Here are some things that have worked for others:

1. Using a full-spectrum light.  I’m told there are new ones that you wear like a cap with a visor, and you can do normal stuff and the light in the visor shines sufficiently in your eyes.  Also, you can borrow a light from NAMI.   

2. Prescription medicines.  I didn’t have much luck with these, but I’m told that what I took is now considered old-school and there are lots of better things available.   

What do you do if you know something is deeply wrong but you don’t have the strength to ask for help? 

Here’s my advice:

1. Make a pot of tea. Clear a spot on your messy table. Find a pretty napkin. Drink your tea.

2. Make your bed every morning. 

3. Read your Bible, even if it’s just a few verses. Your soul needs nourishment. 

4. Eat an egg and an apple. 

5. Take a walk. 

6. Call an elderly person whose life is so pitiful compared to yours that you can’t help but cheer her up. 

7. You know there are things you should do. Break them down into little steps. Put on your walking shoes. Plan to reward yourself with 15 minutes on Pinterest for every 5 minutes you walk–if that’s what it takes. Write down the phone number you should call. Plan to call at 1:00. Reward yourself with more tea after you call. 

8. Keep a journal. Write down what you’re obsessing about. Also find 3 things to be thankful for, and write them down. Write a prayer for the day, even if it’s only one sentence. 

9.Give yourself credit for surviving. Surviving is good. 

10. Promise me and yourself that if you are ever a danger to yourself or your children, you will call someone right now. You know the 911 number by heart. Call it if you need to. If you don’t want to be that drastic, figure out now who you’ll call instead.  Write down the number and have it on hand. 

11.  Look up NAMI online. Learn a lot. Call them if you should. I promise they will not make you feel stupid, even if you don’t even know what questions to ask. 

12. Tell your spouse, friend, mom, someone, what a hard time you’re having. Ask them to help you get help. Plan ahead how you will do this. When will you bring it up? What words will you say? Then open your mouth. Say the words. Tell them you need them to give you a hug and pray for you. If they won’t, find someone who will. And then let them lead you to the help you need. 

Hope and healing

13. Believe that there is hope and healing for you. 

SAD is awful and Depression is worse, but I believe in better things for all of us.

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