So Tired It Hurts…

I have just went head-first into a wall, and I do not know how to recover...

On Friday evening after meeting my publication deadline, I was excited to move onto housework and other responsibilities. By the end of the evening, I was experiencing a level of exhaustion that was almost unbearable. I assumed it was due to the deadline and how hard that I had worked to complete my work, and that it would pass after a night’s rest.

Well, it didn’t. Here it is Tuesday evening, and I have been the epitome of a zombie since that time. I am literally so tired that it hurts. My body hurts; my mind aches; I cannot think straight; and my coordination is slow and lacking. I hit a brick wall before the weekend, and I have not since recovered.

I have tried caffeine, and that is not helping. I have tried rest, but any reprieve is only temporary. Eating and drinking does not help. Today, February 21, 2012, I took one of my small lights out for the first time. I have had it on since the early afternoon, and I am still deliriously tired. It is truly hard to describe.

I have a tiring week ahead of me, and if this continues, I am wondering how I am going to make it. I had assumed that the fatigue may have been due to “that” time of the month or impending sickness, which it may still be, but as time drags on, and I still feel like I have been run over by a train, I am beginning to doubt those two contributing factors.

I am starting to remember what S.A.D. truly feels like. I always know and remember, but still seem to forget the full magnitude of it. It’s no joke. I am truly living like the walking dead right now.

Life as a zombie is just no life at all...

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Is Winter a Risk that You would Rather not Take?

Winter can leave you stumbling in the dark when it comes to financial decisions. Here's why...

Seasonal Affective Disorder can influence you in ways that you may not even consider. I remember reading that unemployment rates are high amongst those who suffer from S.A.D. due to their inability to perform according to normal standards during winter.

Apparently not only can the seasons affect your mood, but also your tolerance for risk. Read below for more information:

This is Your Portfolio on Winter: Seasonal Affective Disorder and Risk Aversion in Financial Decision Making

The study seems to indicate that those affected with S.A.D. are more concerned about financial risk during fall and winter, but more open to potential risk during spring and summer. I am no doctor, but I can understand these findings for at least a couple of reasons.

First of all, being that S.A.D. is a form of depression, during low-light months our outlook on life is diminished. We may become not only more down, but also more pessimistic. Likewise, during the better time of the year, we may feel more bright and sunny with a better outlook on life and a renewed sense of optimism.

Another reason that these findings may make sense is due to the nesting instinct that affects many people during cooler, darker days, whether they happen to be affected by S.A.D. or not. We instinctively desire to build up our resources during cold weather, and in doing so, derive some comfort that helps us to make it through the tough seasons. The concept of the market with its ups-and-downs may prove to be unbearable to someone who is trying to hold onto everything they have as a matter of survival.

The jury is still out as to whether you are wiser to be making serious financial or portfolio decisions during winter or summer. Decisions made in winter can be too safe to prove worthwhile; decisions made in summer may be too reckless to achieve your ultimate goals. Especially when it comes to finances, it is preferable to determine your course of action whenever you personally feel the most in balance. Or another option is to weigh your feelings on the issue throughout the various seasons to gather a general consensus of which direction you should go.

Balancing your portfolio may be a task best left to when you are feeling balanced.

My Own Personal Rules of S.A.D. Survival II

Well, I made it through the holiday season, and I am assuming that you did, too, if you are now reading this. It was a good stretch, and I had plenty of down time to get caught up on some writing and other things around the house. That has continued into this week, as it is has been extremely slow, but I am not complaining! It’s nice to have time to breathe and do some duties that normally get thrown by the wayside.

Part of my productivity and inspiration has stemmed from the decent weather that we have had thus far. The snow blower has remained in the garage, and we have barely had any snow to even speak of. Today was up to almost 50 degrees with full sun all day. We have been very blessed, to say the least. May it continue!

What is in your S.A.D. survival guide? I'm sharing what's in mine...

In one of my last blog posts, I talked about having some personal rules of S.A.D. survival. Well, good news, because I have the second installment of the post that was featured on The Crazy Rambler:

Guest Post II by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

If you live someplace that Seasonal Affective Disorder is common, you know that you will deal with it on an annual basis, so it is wise to develop your own “S.A.D. Survival Guide,” whether formally or informally.

I want to thank The Crazy Rambler again for allowing me to take up some valuable space on her blog. I hope that you will check out her blog, which is much more advanced and versatile than this one.

In other news, this has nothing to do with S.A.D., but since zombies are an interest of mine, I thought it would be interesting to pass along this scientific news story about bees exhibiting zombie-like behavior:

Discovery.com– FLY PARASITE TURNS HONEY BEES INTO ‘ZOMBIES’

Maybe these zombie bees were exhibiting signs of S.A.D. by gravitating towards light and walking around in circles. That description does not sound all that different from me during winter. 😉 Talk about killer bees…

Enjoy the upcoming weekend!

"Zombee"? This news story suggests that the concept may be more real than we think. Photo credit: ShirtShovel.com

My Own Personal Rules of S.A.D. Survival

What is in your S.A.D. survival guide? I'm sharing what's in mine...

When you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you can count every wintry day that you make it through as an accomplishment.  The name of the game becomes getting through your days as effectively as possible under the circumstances.

Recently I was asked by The Crazy Rambler to provide a guest post naming some ways that I manage to get by in spite of my S.A.D.  As I have dealt with it over the past 3 years since being diagnosed, I have learned some personal “tricks of the trade,” if you will.  Some of them may be only useful to me, and some may be useful to others.  After I was diagnosed with S.A.D., I literally wrote a survival guide for myself that I still have.  It helped to give me a game plan and some hope for times when my mind is cloudy and tired and all hope seems lost.

I am passing along this first installment of my guest post in hopes that you will find it helpful, or at least, you can take comfort in my struggles, as misery does love company (believe me– I know):

Guest Post I by “My Life as a Zombie” Dealing With S.A.D.

How do you get by during this tough time of year?  I would love to hear your own tricks and tips, so please comment below.

Make sure to catch the second installment with more S.A.D. survival tips later this week.

A Sneaky Symptom of Seasonal Affective Disorder

One of the most undesirable symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (amongst a long list of negative ways that the disorder affects you) is weight gain.  Like the disorder, the weight gain can be of a seasonal nature only. And to be honest, people tend to gain more during the winter as it is, due to being inside more, and therefore more sedentary, as well as the holiday season with all of its decadent offerings.

But given the fact that the possibility of weight gain becomes more of a concern for everyone at this time, people with S.A.D. have to be particularly aware.  Much of the weight gain in relation to S.A.D. is due to an increased craving for carbohydrates (sugars), which are known to pack on the pounds.  Whether you are eating pasta, bread, or candy, carbohydrates may provide you with a temporary energy boost, but they will also boost the numbers on the scale.

In addition to the craving for carbs, those affected with S.A.D. may also have an increased appetite in general.  Some other forms of depression can also cause the person to eat more in the attempt to make themselves feel better.

I am not a doctor, but I tend to think that the increased eating during winter stems from a few different reasons.  First, it is biological. From a survival point of view, if we lived out in the wild, we would want to bulk up, as it is much easier to stay warm during the winter.  What do hibernating bears do prior to their long slumber?  Eat as much as possible, and in particular, they engorge on carbohydrate-rich foods found in the wild.  They may gain 30 pounds in one week by intentionally eating.

Second, I think we eat for mental reasons.  Both directly and indirectly, food has an effect on our minds.  The chemicals from foods can often produce a positive effect on our brains, causing us to function better and feel more clear-minded.  In particular, carbohydrates can produce a more immediate effect, providing us with quick gratification.  That is the direct effect, but the indirect is how we feel.  Food makes us feel cared for, makes us feel like times are good, and we are programmed to correlate food with celebration and happiness.  That is one reason that food is such a major component at the holidays or any special occasion, making the time very difficult for those on a diet.  It causes the person trying to cut down to feel like they are missing out on the celebration, and other well-meaning people who will tell them that in those exact words do not help the matter.

The final reason that I think that those with S.A.D. are more likely to eat during the winter is in an attempt to regain strength and energy. On a normal basis, if we do not eat enough, our brain and body is affected, causing us to feel lethargic, tired, and lacking in energy. Eating can undo all of those effects.  Because someone with S.A.D. is infected with a zombie syndrome that makes them walk around in a continual state of fatigue and feeling out of it, they may turn to food to try to pump themselves up with the energy that they lack, particularly carbs that offer a swift pick-me-up.

Unfortunately in this situation, overeating during the winter can end up making a bad scenario worse on an ongoing basis.  If you become overweight, it may affect your self-esteem, causing long-term depression, or people may make comments that will feed into a negative body image.

On my other blog, I just made a post about weight, its effect on your psyche, and our cultural standards.  Part of my own weight struggle is likely due to my Seasonal Affective Disorder, so that is why I wanted to share the blog post with you.

The Great Weight Debate

Here are some ways that I attempt to control my weight during this difficult period of time:

  • Keep temptation at bay— If I know that I am going to feel the need to load up on cookies or candy if it is in the house, I may sure that I do not buy it.  Likewise, if holiday baking or cooking is going to cause you to eat more during the process than you have left over, avoid it.   However, it is okay to have a treat once in a while as long as you do not go on a binge.
  • Drink instead of eat— Often our hunger is not from the need for food, but rather that we may be dehydrated.  Before running for a snack, try to drink some water to see if that makes you feel more energized.
  • Portion control the carbs— You can still eat carbohydrates, but keep them at a minimum.  Have a small amount of pasta or bread, or if possible, skip them.
  • Get exercise indoors if you can— I am not really into exercise, but we do have an exercise bike that I use from time to time. Particularly for someone with S.A.D., I am not about to tell them to get outdoors in this cold weather to exercise, but if you can do it inside, it can help with both weight management and energy levels.
  • Provide yourself quality snacks options— If you need an energizing snack in the afternoon, keep one or two things around that are decent.  It could be a granola bar, yogurt, dry cereal, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers,  or for me, dry oats.  Drink some water with it to make yourself feel fuller.  The key is not to start eating things that are bad for you or overdoing it even with the things that are good for you.
  • Don’t forget the drinks— Winter makes us want to have a mug full of hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or apple cider in our hands at all times.  Summer spurs us to drink more cold water, but winter does the opposite.  Some of these drinks have a lot of sugar or calories, and we could end up putting on weight from them.  So monitor how much that you are drinking, choose lower fat/calorie/sugar options like tea when possible, and instead of having a snack, you may consider just having a hot drink instead.  It fills you up, and can offer the boost that you need.
  • Re-program your idea of a good time— We are so used to think that only with food or drinks can we have a good time.  I used to go out and eat as if every meal was my last one.  We have to re-adjust our thinking to know that eating is fine, but it is not an end in and of itself, and we can do fun things without always overeating.  This becomes especially pertinent during the holidays or during social gatherings of any sort.
  • Determine your motivation— Before you pop something in your mouth, particularly snacks or treats, determine what your motivation is for eating it.  In other words, are you really hungry? Sometimes I find myself craving food as a distraction, as a feel-good, because I am actually thirsty and don’t realize it, or to celebrate an occasion, not because I am hungry at all. Determining your motivation will stop mindless eating.
  • Set your priorities— If you know that you are going out to eat later or to a party, choose to eat less at your other meals.  That way you can enjoy yourself, and still get the same calories as any other day.  Likewise, don’t waste calories on items that you really don’t like that much– for me, I often skip bread during dinners at home.  Another tactic is to only eat more when I eat out on things I really like, and eat less at home of things I really do not care that much for anyways.

After knowing what my issue is for a few years now, I have learned to control some of my winter-related eating, and a lot of it is just due to controlled actions that eventually become habits. By putting some preventative measures in place, you should be able to avoid seasonal weight gain, and the process will be easier in years to come.

Survival Tips for the Seasonally Affected During the Holiday Season

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”

Is it?  Really?  For those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, I beg to differ.  To people with S.A.D., it is actually the most horrible time of the year. The holiday season stretches even most normal people to their max, so how much more so is that true for someone with S.A.D.  I happen to think that I would be much happier and more into celebrating the holidays if they fell during the summer.

Days that are more like night mixed with snow and cold hardly constitutes the most wonderful time of the year to me...

But even though many people may feel like the holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year during the actual time, the post-holiday season brings a serious downfall.  Due to the intense activity, elated feelings, and extra artificial light at night that occur during the holidays, the time after the holidays often brings depression to about 25% of the population.  My own personal thinking is that this is the time that the winter blues really sets in for many people, without anything else to temporarily distract them or prop them up.  I question how many people really feel that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but rather use the time as an opportunity to make themselves temporarily feel better.

For someone like myself who suffers from S.A.D., the expectations caused by the holidays only exacerbate the problem– it becomes difficult to keep up with the extra work, expense, and increased interaction with others.  I often feel like all of it is a charade, and I wonder why we all insist on buying into it.  This is very much in contrast to my previous enthusiasm for the holidays.

Recently on my main blog, I discussed some of the ways that I personally am getting through this holiday season, and much of it involves making things more simple.

Live Simply, Live Thrifty, Live Savvy– I’m Dreaming of a Simplified Christmas…

In a season of overdrive and excess, surviving in spite of Seasonal Affective Disorder must be contemplated carefully.  Here are some of my tips to make it through the holidays with your sanity in tact:

  • Just because you did it before does not mean that you need to do it again this year. Different years your S.A.D. may be affecting you differently, so feel free to go with the flow, and make changes as needed, even if it means doing less.
  • Delegate and ask for help.  My tree is not up, because no one has offered to help, and I did not feel like asking.  However, if someone wants to help, I may feel more inclined to put it up.  Don’t be afraid to rely on others for help during this rough time of the year.
  • Get rid of the unnecessary.  If something does not really mean anything to you or make you feel better, get rid of it.  If it is a drudgery, let it go by the wayside, and save your energy for more important tasks.
  • Know your social limits. Dealing with others during this time is pretty difficult for me, so I do not go to visit family for a week at a time.  Rather, we chose this year to stay home for Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and visit for a couple of days at Christmas.
  • Avoid stores if they bother you.  With today’s modern technology, it is possible to get all shopping done from the comfort of home.  If going to the store is only going to waste precious energy or cause you to feel emotionally drained, shop from your computer instead.
  • Do things that you honestly enjoy.  There are so many things to do at this time of the year– social obligations, activities, duties, things to watch, etc.  Limit what you do only to those things that truly bring you joy.  For me, that is sitting down and watching some favorite Christmas movies, especially the classics.  No longer do I feel the need to run to every local happening just to feel that I have celebrated the holidays sufficiently.
  • Lower your expectations.  Many times we put more pressure on ourselves than everyone else combined puts on us, so learn to do what you can, and let things other things go.

If you have S.A.D., you know how tough that daily living can be, much less surviving the holiday season.  You will feel happier and healthier if you learn what works for you personally, and if you allow yourself the grace to make changes as needed.  Your top goal during the holiday season and beyond should be keeping yourself in the best spirits possible and stretching your available focus, energy, and creativity to the max.

Somehow, I question if I agree with the premise of this...

Daylight Savings Time is for the Birds

Daylight Savings Time ended almost a month ago, and yet I am still adjusting.  The concept has some merit, until it ends, and then the day is on its way to darkness by the time you pick up the kids from school.  By 4:30 PM CST as I write this, it is almost dark.

I guess if I were to look at the bright side as someone recently suggested, it is December 1st, and pretty soon we will have the winter equinox, which means that from then on, the days will get longer.  But let’s be realistic: it is a slow process, and what we are really looking at is months of short, dark days with long, dark nights, and lots of cold to match.

If you find Daylight Savings Time as pointless and confusing as I do, you may enjoy reading this recent blog post from Dr. Norman Rosenthal about why most of the United States participates in DST, and why it affects many of us in the way that it does, particularly those who are seasonally affected.

There Goes Daylight Savings Time: What Can You Do About It?

Upon reading the post, you will find that he suggests replacing natural light with artificial light therapy.  If you have been feeling sluggish, overly tired, unmotivated, and/or down, light therapy could be a solution to look into.  For those of us with S.A.D., it is considered the top way to treat the condition (well, other than moving close to the equator, of course). 🙂  But even if you do not have S.A.D., but just get a little of the winter blues, feel more tired during the winter, and/or have some other form of depression, light therapy is still an effective option.

I have mentioned these lights on the list of S.A.D. resources on the home page, but I am going to run through them here as well.  I asked my insurance to pay for my light after getting diagnosed.  Strangely enough at the time, I had been working at a warehouse that stored and shipped higher-value products from a well-known website, and one of them just happened to be a light.  I was not familiar with S.A.D. at that time, but the girls in the office found the concept of a “happy light” intriguing, so we all took turns (me reluctantly, at first) setting up the light on our desk, and using it for a while in the mornings.  So, when I found out that I needed a light of my own to deal with my S.A.D., I knew exactly which one that I wanted.

Day-Light Classic Bright Light Therapy System by Up-Lift Technologies

In order to have the insurance pay for the item, I had to be officially diagnosed, have my therapist suggest bright light therapy as a form of treatment, and have the therapist write a prescription for the light. The truth is, buying a light one time is a much better investment than paying for ongoing prescription medications or trips to a facility that offers bright light therapy.

Any light designed for bright light therapy will work, but this one has a nice soft, warm glow to it.  It also can be easily set up for use on a desk next to or over a computer screen.

I also have some mini lights that I received as a gift, which are really useful for tight spaces, like on a desk or table, or in a bathroom or kitchen.

HappyLight 2500 Energy Lamp Twin Pack by Verilux

These are a little more discreet than the previous light, and look less conspicuous, so if you are using them in public, these ones are less likely to draw unwanted questions. Plus, with two of them, you can keep them in different parts of the house, or use one at work and one at home.  This lamp provides a little more bluish-white light than the previous (more like typical fluorescents, if I had to compare).

Other ways to get the light that you need involve taking advantage of natural light when it is available.  Open your blinds, shades, or curtains during the day– the light will help you, and help to keep your heating costs low (make sure to close them at night).  When possible, attempt to sit or stand facing the windows.  Even if you are not an outdoorsy person, taking a ride in the car can allow you to get some much-needed sun.  If you have a sun roof, you may want to consider using it.

I often try to play the hero and do without my lights for as long as possible (my husband asked me out-of-the-blue today where my light was, and I was embarrassed to say that I have not taken it out yet), but realistically, no amount of rest or caffeine can substitute for it. My therapist recommended that I start using light therapy as early as August each year in order to stave off my Seasonal Affective Disorder, so dedicated use throughout at least half to three-fourths of the year (late summer through early spring) is probably ideal, particularly depending on where you live.  Light therapy can help you to deal with the seasonal changes that occur at this time of the year, particularly the dramatic shift that takes place when Daylight Savings Time ends.

Note: Consultation with a medical professional prior to starting any form of treatment is highly advised.