From the Pastor’s Desk, December 2016

‘Tis the season for bright lights, decorations, holiday music, parties, programs, office dinners, family gatherings, sending cards (along with those ubiquitous family letters), taking photographs, shopping, eating out, attending religious services, and being abundantly cheerful. (The last three words of the preceding sentence brings the needle scratching across the vinyl disk, the turntable coming to a screeeeeccchhhing halt, and a deathly stillness overpowering the mellow holiday tunes previously playing.) ‘Tis the season we hope for abundant cheerfulness, but the reality is, dare I say, frequently the opposite.

Granted, cheery-ness kind of flies out the window when it’s nearly impossible to find an aisle at Wal-Mart that you can get your cart through, or when the little tykes have trouble sitting still for that perfect photo op, or when the string(s) of lights you put on the Christmas tree don’t light (a conclusion you reach after the rest of the decorations have been placed), or you learn the department store where you shopped had their computer system hacked, a system that contained your credit card information. Yep, these things cause us to immediately dive into a round of “Joy to the World”…or not.

Truth be told, the aforementioned setbacks are merely inconveniences, not necessarily joy robbers (except for the particular moment of occurrence). The real culprit that can interrupt, and disrupt, our cheerfulness (in about 1 to 2 percent of the population) is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as the Winter Blues or seasonal depression. Another 10 to 20 percent of the population experiences a milder form of SAD.

SAD is caused by a number of things but frequently and primarily by minimal amounts of sunlight, colder weather, and unusual sleep patterns. Symptoms can include moodiness, change in appetite (craving sugary and starchy foods), irritability, tension and stress, and mild depression. It is sad that SAD (sorry for the pun) frequently occurs during the busy and joyful holiday season. But, the holiday season is during a time of the year when days are shorter, nights are longer, and temperatures are colder. Yes, ‘tis the season for less cheer than anticipated.

‘Tis the season, then, to take care of ourselves. If you recognize the symptoms of SAD affecting you, or someone close to you kindly and gently alerts you of changes they see in you, here are a few steps to take for a healthier well-being.

‘Tis the season, then to take care of ourselves.”

1. Get as much natural sunlight as possible.

2. Move your body frequently—don’t sit for more than an hour.

3. Give yourself permission to reach out to others for support.

4. Learn about the moodboosting benefits of omega-3 fats. Explore relaxation techniques and practice those you enjoy.

Self-care is sometimes the most difficult kind of care to give. But if we care for self, we then have greater capacity to care for others. And, then, when we feel better, and others feel better, truly ‘tis the season for abundant cheer. To health and well-being.

For more on the subject of Seasonal Affective Disorder, visit this website: http://www.helpguide.org/ articles/depression/seasonalaffective-disorder-sad.htm

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