Posted in Mental Health

A Season of Depression

It is during our darkst moments that we must focus to see the light.

`Aristotle

Don’t act surprised when some of your friends seem to be grumpy these nest few weeks.  We have definitely started the winter weather that occurs during the months of November to February, the days are shorter and colder, and the nights longer and darker. Many people are already dealing with a considerable amount of snow already. As the climate changes, many people actually feel the effects of the season change and feel gloomy or miserable. Many feel the need to hide away and hibernate like a grizzly bear hoping for Spring. In many occasions, this isn’t simply a disdain for winter, but actually, a mood disorder is known as winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Based on statistics released by the SAD Association, approximately 12% of Canadians, 9.7% of people who live in the northern states of the  USA, and 8% of people in the United Kingdom have experienced some form of winter depression. According to world statistics, the incidence of SAD increases dramatically as you go 30 degrees of latitude further north or south, while the condition is virtually unheard of in the tropics.

What is SAD?

Winter depression has a sound medical basis that involves changes in the body’s mood centers brought on by shorter daylight hours and a lack of sunlight. Most people suffering from this depressive illness experience a sense of utter isolation and loneliness. The only consolation is the fact that many people go through the same feelings during this time of the year. It provides a sense of comfort and assurance that sufferers are not alone.

Some Key SAD Symptoms

Be on the lookout for:

  • Low mood that occurs daily for an extended period of time lasting more than two weeks straight and is affecting your performance at work, school or your desire to socialize
  • Changes in appetite and weight (gain or loss)
  • Sleep problems/Insomnia
  • Withdrawal from family members and friends
  • Feelings of  hopelessness, excessive guilt, pessimism or having low self-esteem
  • Agitation or feeling slowed down
  • Irritability
  • Overwhelming Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering and/or making decisions
  • Oversensitivity or feeling like crying but not being able to
  • Thoughts of suicide (which should always be taken seriously)

Can Light Therapy Help?

Light therapy, one of the most effective and clinically proven treatments for SAD, has been shown to benefit some 80-85 percent of SAD cases. It may sound very simple but the process involves more than just turning on a light and sitting beside it while twiddling your thumbs as you wait for that renewed energy to power up your whole well-being.

The average home or office light emits a paltry 200-500 lux (a lux is a unit of illuminance) whereas a minimum of 2,500 lux is required to alleviate the symptoms of SAD. In comparison, a clear summer’s day can reach an intensity of 100,000 lux.

Using these measurements as a basis, a number of specially designed lightboxes have been invented that emit precisely the right amount of illumination. Symptoms of SAD gradually subside by sitting in front of one for about 30 minutes to several hours throughout the day, depending on the severity of the condition.

When it comes to the treatment of SAD symptoms, light therapy could be the best approach to consider. But to those with severe symptoms, addressing the root causes of the condition may involve the use of both antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy treatments. There are some other ideas to consider:

  • Moving to a warmer climate that does not have high amounts of rain or snow
  • Vacationing near the equator 
  • Watching movies that are set in warm, sunny, summery climates, marked improvements in mood are demonstrated. Any film with clear blue cloudless skies, palm trees, and an absence of snow may qualify for a movie therapy.
  • Watching outdoor sports like cricket or golf

 I hope that the information above can have a mood-enhancing effect and improve your overall well-being. If you are feeling the effects of the time or season change, please contact your doctor and discuss your symptoms.

Inhale. Exhale.

Violet Buddha

Posted in Mental Health, Self Care

Choose a Kick-Ass Self-Help Book With These 7 Tips

If you don’t have the courage to change yourself, then nothing will ever change around you. – Unknown

You will reach points in your life where you will need a little help and guidance. Of course, you can turn to your tribe, but occasionally you will realize that the type of help you need isn’t the type of support your friends and family can provide you with. Most of us turn to a good self-help book at one point or another to encourage and inspire us toward a range of possibilities for growth. Looking inside yourself and deciding to make a change is the first step towards improving your life. You will want a book that can provide you with the best advice but there are often too many to choose from.

Here is a list of what to look for in a self-help book and how to choose the best one for you:

Time for some soul searching…

1. Look for a book that focuses on a limited range of problems. The books that tend to rank the highest are the ones that have only focused on one specific disorder. 

2. Review the author’s credentials. Before purchasing a self-help book, you’ll want to get a book that has up to date information and is backed with research and knowledge. Look for books that are ranked high or are written by doctors and professors. 

3. Avoid books that contain claims that you know are too good to be true. You probably already know how to spot these types of grandiose fabrications, but it is especially important to be cognizant when it comes to you counseling yourself. For example, if a book claims to banish your anxiety issues forever, don’t get sucked in!. Unfortunately, a book cannot guarantee you with relief from anxiety, or any other mental or physical health issue, forever. 

4. Is the book you’re looking at based on scientific evidence? This is often hard to tell right off the bat, but you can rest assured that the books that are ranked highest usually have some sort of data and/or experiments to back up their credibility. 

5. Look for a book that helps you monitor your progress. Having this type of guidance and help allows you to see how far you’ve come, which is something wonderful within itself. You can visually see and feel how far you’ve come and how much you’ve changed since the beginning of your self-help journey. If the book has an accompanying workbook this will definitely help you stay on track and provide you with a place to record your insights about yourself.

6. Flip through the book or tables of contents (if it has one) and see if it ever discusses the possibility of relapse or any setbacks. Only about half of all the self-help books published allude to a sense of setbacks or relapse and how to bounce back from them. The goal is to resolve the issues, however, sometimes it takes more than one attempt to find the right recipe for you.

7. Does the book discuss when you should seek professional help? Sometimes you can’t overcome all the underlying issues that led to the problem or you may face some unsettling emotions on your self-help journey. If you reach that point, it is important that you get the support you require from someone who specializes in your problem. 

Photo Credit: Ellieelien on Unsplash

There is a large variety of self-help books available to help you along your journey of learning more about yourself. The key is that you purchase a book that can provide you with as much value and guidance as possible. Don’t go for books with flashy covers and taglines just because you like their look. If need be, look into each book and provide yourself with the best chance of being rejuvenated and inspired to grow.

Inhale. Exhale.

Violet Buddha

Posted in Anxiety, Mental Health, Self Care

The Signs I Ignored

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius, and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

Marilyn Monroe

Hi Moms are always tired…right? I became a mom before I turned 20 and by 40 I had 4 kids with a grandbaby on the way. Many of my symptoms I attributed to motherhood, being a wife and working full time. I also have 2 types of anemia so I figured it must be a result of that, or stress from going through my divorce in my early twenties and subsequent custody battle that was on/off for years. I made excuse after excuse instead of paying attention to what had been building over all this time.

Flag 1 – Why can’t I stay asleep?

The insomnia started in my twenties, the baby was sleeping in way past my wake up time.  I would take advantage of the fact that I was an earlier bird to drink my coffee in the morning quiet, read magazines or start to tackle my to-do list for the day.  I never complained about the fact that I was getting fewer and fewer hours of sleep as the years went by. I could fall asleep with no problems (probably because I was so exhausted from my day) however I was starting to wake up between 3:00 am and 5:00 am more consistently.

Flag 2 – Why do I wake up with a headache?

The next flag should have been the headaches….I would wake up in the morning and my head would be throbbing, a dull ache in the base of my skull or in between my eyes.  I must be dehydrated, need my caffeine fix, slept wrong or maybe a migraine would be on the horizon due to the barometric pressure. Sometimes it would pass after a few hours but the frequency was definitely increasing.

Flag 3 – Why can’t I remember anything?

I know that stress, lack of sleep and poor eating habits can lead to memory issues but I have also have pernicious anemia which causes brain fog if my vitamin B12 levels get too low.  I have monthly injections to maintain the proper level and grew accustomed to a few days of memory issues when I was due for a shot. What began to happen was that the fog never lifted.  I tried diet plans, increasing my B12 dose, sleeping pills and even sought help from my acupuncturist.

The Verdict 

The truth of what was happening didn’t come together for me until 2019.  I was diagnosed with seasonal depression and started daily light therapy with a Happy Light.  My brain was loving it and so was I because after each light session I would feel more awake and energized.  I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time, my memory has improved and I was sleeping 6 hours straight at night.  I was relieved that I didn’t need to take medication but then the New Year hit….

In the first 3 months of 2019, I had several family members that had health crises which lead me to have an overload of stress and put my anxiety into high gear. I was worried about everyone and everything – ALL THE TIME. I was terrified of what could happen next. My positive personality was sliding into darkness and all my usual tools were failing me.

For weeks the insomnia escalated until I did not sleep for more than 2 hours straight for weeks.  I was lucky if I slept for a total of 3-4 hours a night. I began to get the shakes, tremor in my hands and was experiencing panic attacks on a daily basis. All I wanted to do was stay in bed and hide from the world.  I would struggle through the day, try to put on a smile and be there for my family.

When I sought out professional help the message was clear: Stop, Sleep, Eat, Fill your cup.  I had to hear the words Adjustment Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Depression from my Doctor. It wasn’t an easy moment to absorb.  I needed some medicine to help balance out my serotonin – after a few weeks and playing with the timing of the dose – I started to feel like me again. 

This blog is part of my therapy, I do it to stay accountable and to help others who struggle with Mental Illness. I am here to bring awareness on mental health topics and to share what I’m learning in relation to self care.


If you have at least four of these symptoms on a pretty much  daily basis for more than a month, please talk to someone you trust and seek medical intervention. 

  • Depressed or irritable mood most of the day, nearly every day or people asking if you are OK.
  • Decreased interest or pleasure in activities always enjoyed
  • Increased headaches
  • Eating too much or too little (unintended weight gain or loss)
  • Change in sleep (more or less than usual)
  • Fatigue or low energy levels
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive worry or inappropriate guilt
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Keep in mind that besides headache, other body complaints you can experience with depression are:

  • Pain (neck, back, abdominal)
  • Joint aches and pains
  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Overall body weakness

I want everyone to know that they are not alone and there is no shame in asking for help. I’d love to connect on social media and hear your story.  We can learn a lot from each other by sharing our experience and squashing the stigma that exists on mental health challenges.

Inhale. Exhale.

Violet Buddha