How Can I Survive SAD?

How Can I Survive SAD?

Psychiatrist
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that strikes in the fall or winter, when there are fewer hours of daylight. Doctors believe people develop SAD when their hormones- especially the mood regulator serotonin and the "sleep hormone" melatonin-are disrupted by the lack of light. To make up for lost sunshine, try phototherapy with a light box. I recommend SunBox light boxes or other suitable brands that reach a luminosity of 10,000 lux (equal in intensity to the sunlight on a clear spring morning) and filter out UV rays. Sit at arm's length from one for 30 minutes a day. Face the light box directly, but protect your eyes by looking down or reading a book. Also, try walking in early-morning light for a half hour every day. If symptoms persist, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or a supplement to boost your serotonin.

—Ronald R. Parks, M.D., psychiatrist and founder of the MacroHealth Medicine Center in North Carolina

Ayurvedic Physician
In Ayurveda, SAD is considered an imbalance of the three doshas, or constitutions: pitta, vata, and kapha. I recommend Ayurvedic herbs like Mucuna pruriens, Celastrus paniculatus, ashwagandha, Bacopa monniera, and Sida cordifolia. These are available at any good retailer of Ayurvedic herbs and online through the National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine (niam.com). Take 250 milligrams (1/8 teaspoon) of each with warm water every day, mixing the herbs with one teaspoon of ghee, a clarified butter found at Indian groceries and health food stores. You can also try Sarvabhyanga, a self-massage that uses vigorous upward strokes, starting at the head and moving down to the feet, to balance energy in the body. Consider visiting an Ayurveda spa for a shirodhara treatment, or "third-eye drip," in which Ayurvedic oil is slowly dripped onto the middle of the forehead.

—Scott Gerson, M.D., Ph.D., medical director, National Institute of Ayurvedic Medicine in New York

Homeopath
The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person, so I recommend that you first identify your feelings and what triggers them before choosing a homeopathic remedy. If you're irritable and tend to isolate yourself from friends and family, try sepia, a remedy made from squid ink. (The standard dosage for homeopathic remedies is 30C three times a day for two days.) If there's no improvement, try Aurum metallicum; also known as metallic gold, it can calm even the darkest feelings of depression. Phosphorus is a good choice if you feel worse on cloudy days, while Rhus tox, made from poison ivy, relieves the back and joint stiffness often provoked by rain. And if you crave carbohydrates, especially chocolate, you may be deficient in magnesium—a mineral that's involved in the synthesis of serotonin. Take some Magnesium phosphorica; it can clear your cravings within days.

—Gayle Eversole, D.Hom., Ph.D., founder of the Creating Health Institute in Washington