Northwest NEWS

January 11, 1999


Guest Editorial

Winter got you down? Blues, melancholy, doldrums?

by Jo A. Deevey, M.D., Holistic Physician & Homeopath

   Fall and winter are the most common times to be less than our usual best. Although most other creatures--squirrels, bears, etc.--know it's time to hibernate, or, like the birds, fly south to a warmer, sunnier climate, for most of us, that's not an option.

   In fact, in addition to our daily obligations of family, job, kids, and community, the holidays increase our responsibilities and stress level right off the charts! And depression, which we tend to call these feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, or stuckness results from the enormous expectations we load upon ourselves.

   It's an odd coincidence that we often lose relatives or loved ones this time of year, and we don't have/take time to mourn them, so this adds to the burden. Depression is really the twin or flip side of anxiety or stress. It's the down side of constantly trying to be up and going, even when nature's cycles are encouraging us to re-balance. If we begin to have difficulty sleeping, more or less appetite, suspicions or distrust that the world's against us, or lack of interest in our usual activities, restlessness, agitation, that's just farther along the down the spectrum and can lead to serious trouble.

   So, what's to be done? A vacation in the sun is certainly the best. Think of all the ways you could add light and warmth to your life right now, besides hugs, of course. Full spectrum lighting (like Chromalux) is available in bulbs and fluorescent tubes; add it to your home or workplace. How about candles and fireplaces? They add light, warmth, and even relaxation. Speaking of which, your massage therapist is an expert on transporting you through comfort even to Hawaii.

   You've probably heard of Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, or the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. They help for a little while, when appropriately prescribed, because there is some evidence that our neurotransmitters (thought transporters in the brain) decrease as the sun exposure diminishes, but, in a few weeks or months, you'll just have one more worry or stress to think about. How do I get off the stuff without returning to the sinkhole? And you will get back there, if you haven't changed your habits.

   Life is about movement, change, flexibility. Depression is about focusing on the wrong things, often things we can't change. So, how about that daily walk? Even if it's cold or rainy, get out your foul weather gear. Or a work-out, to work up a sweat; the body needs to breathe...deeply. Remember to treat yourself to a sauna or whirlpool, or hot and cold showers (alternate 30 seconds each, seven times) And, check your eating habits: it's so easy to forget the fresh fruits and veggies, even though they're on the grocery shelf and already prepared in the Deli; try some before your burger or pizza.

   No matter how many Vitamins or supplements you swallow, it can't make up for poor nutrition. But in case you're interested, stress reduces the necessary Vitamin B in the nerve synapse (so does alcohol, coffee, and smoking), so be sure you've got enough to keep your gastro-intestinal tract healthy and keep those nerves running. Rule of thumb: Eat 5-7 times in weight what you buy at the vegetable stand to what you buy at the butcher. (Check your B-supplements: 1-2 mgs/day can't begin to replace a deficit.)

   Have you heard of the sugar blues? It's real; it was first experienced after the discovery of sugar cane in the West Indies and the consuming of rum on the British ships, and is rampant in our junk food society. If you don't believe me, try to stop eating all sugar, and you'll really know what depression is. Take a good look at the balance of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, and protein in your diet and you'll probably be horrified at what you eat.

   There are lots of opinions out there. Do some research. Read between the lines. Chat with friends and experts. And consider things that can also help: Tyrosine, Magnesium, Glutamine, wheat germ, and St. John's Wort to name a few (the latter, homeopathically, in my opinion). And CoQ will increase the oxygen in all your tissues, so will natural progesterone (cells like to breathe, too). Anti-oxidants help to burn up waste products and toxins which overload our bodies.

   Most important, find the light within: reflection, prayer, meditation, communing with nature; bring your feelings back to life.