By Jenna Avery, CLC,
Life Coach for Sensitive Souls
As someone who is highly sensitive, you’re likely to
be easily disturbed by loud noises, temperature extremes, glaring
lights, other people’s emotions, pressure-filled deadlines,
and violent news – to name a few. But you may not be
aware that you can also be affected by a lack of light, particularly
during the winter months and cloudy spells. (For more information
about high sensitivity, see my article, “Are
You Highly Sensitive?”)
Many Sensitive Souls realize they much prefer natural daylight
to the light of fluorescent office bulbs. We know that we’re
miserable working in offices without windows. We’re also
prone to feeling depressed and overwhelmed. There are many
factors that contribute to our state of mind, so we may not
be aware of seasonal effects on our well-being. For myself,
it wasn’t until I lived as a nanny, in a small unit within
a beautiful – but very shady – creek canyon, that
I began to understand the impact of a lack of natural daylight.
I found myself unmotivated and mildly to moderately depressed.
Since then, I’ve come to realize that even the foggy
San Francisco Bay Area summer days bring me down, along with
the darker days of the winter months. I’ve learned to
recognize this feeling as the “winter blues.”
What Is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects 6%
of the U.S. population, according to Norman Rosenthal, the
Winter Blues: Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How
of SAD include:
loss of libido
In severe cases, serious
disruptions of your personal and professional life can
occur, lasting as many
as five months of the year.
What is the Winter Blues?
Another 14% get the “winter
is a milder form of SAD (also called sub-syndromal SAD). For
those with the milder sub-syndromal version, the symptoms include:
lower incidence of depression
Most people face SAD and the winter blues from fall
through winter, though some of us also deal with the “June
gloom” of summer fog. People who work shifts at night
or in dark indoor environments may also be affected.
Treatment for SAD The primary treatment for SAD is light therapy,
which involves spending time sitting in front of a light box
least 10 times the amount of light emitted by normal home or
office lights. Other treatments include using a timer to activate
a bedside lamp prior to waking; taking walks outside at lunchtime;
taking medications and/or herbs; and utilizing psychotherapy.
If you’re affected by SAD or think you may be, you’ll
want to consult with your doctor to find the right specialists
and treatment to support you.
Coping with the Milder Winter Blues
For those affected by the milder winter blues, consider using
full-spectrum light bulbs throughout your home or office, particularly
in the spaces where you sit for longer periods of time. My
personal experience is that my mood will shift within five
minutes of turning on my lamps. Even in a cubicle at work,
a small desk lamp is the perfect place for a new bulb. The
full-spectrum bulbs currently on the market create a pleasant,
white light remarkably similar to incandescent bulbs. A great
place to buy them online is at gaiam.com.
A note of caution, however: I’ve found that full-spectrum
bulbs in my nighttime reading lamp keep me awake at night,
so I use a regular incandescent
bulb there instead.
Also, consider taking some time outdoors in the sunlight when
you can, particularly in the morning when summer sunburn risk
is lower. (I personally choose to wear sunscreen, though apparently
there is some debate about it.) Taking lunchtime walks and
breaks outside with intermittent
glances to the sky will help to moderate your sensitivity.
Some studies indicate that getting enough sunlight during the
summer months can actually help you later on in the year, so
be sure to get out there when you can! Yoga, creative visualization,
and acupuncture may also be helpful.
Learn From the Danes
I’ve learned from my Danish friends, who cope with darkness
from early afternoon to late morning in the deep of winter.
Danish society is built around the concept of ‘hygge,’ which
loosely translates to ‘cozy’ in English. In winter,
the Danes make much of celebrating the holidays, which includes
many hours creating gifts, treats, and decorations, not to
mention socializing and exchanging small gifts. They light
candles on rainy days (even in summer) and decorate their homes
and offices with lights and colors to brighten their environments.
The coziness strengthens their spirits as well.
Honor the Season
I consider the winter season a time to turn inward, and shift
my focus to connecting with my self, friends, and family. I
see winter as a time of deep renewal and preparation for a
rebirth in the spring. Allow yourself the gift of going within,
and nurturing your Sensitive Soul with beauty, light, coziness,
and creativity. You’ll find your journey through the
dark season of winter easier with a lighter heart and clearer
Note: This article is not meant as a substitute
for professional medical advice.
Copyright 2004-2011, Jennifer Avery, All rights reserved.
Jenna Avery is a highly sensitive coach and intuitive who specializes in guiding sensitive souls to find a deep sense of inner rightness within themselves so they are inspired to step forward and shine. Jenna is a Certified Life Coach based in Berkeley, California. She can be reached at 510.984.3474. You’re invited to take her free online assessment: "Is Your Sensitivity Working For You?" on her website at www.highlysensitivesouls.com.
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