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Did you know that SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is a real thing? It is a type of depression that is related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. If you are like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months. SAD can cause social withdrawal, school or work problems, substance abuse, other mental health behavior and in extreme cases suicidal thoughts. Causes of SAD can be attributed to things like our biological clock and the reduced level of sunlight in the fall and winter. The less sunlight our body sees can confuse our internal clock, which can lead to feelings of depression. Serotonin levels, a brain chemical that affects mood and melatonin levels, which can affect our body’s sleeping patterns and mood can also contribute to SAD.
Why am I talking about SAD? According to the Cleveland Clinic, over half a million people in the United States suffer from winter SAD, while 10 to 20% may suffer from a more mild form of the winter blues. Three-quarters of the sufferers are women and the depression usually starts in early adulthood. SAD is just one common disorder in the vast variety that people may suffer from on a daily basis. It is also one that many can relate too.
Mental illness is just as important as physical illness, yet it was only until recently that the stigma surrounding mental illness began to be discussed more openly. Mental illnesses can range from anxiety disorders to eating disorders.
There is a lack of education and understanding regarding mental health in many communities. The Latino community is one of them. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 33% of Latino adults with mental illnesses receive treatment each year compared to the U.S. average of 43%. Many Latinos do not seek treatment because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions or know where to find help. This lack of information also increases the stigma associated with mental health issues. Many Latinos do not seek treatment for fear of being labeled as “locos” (crazy) or as having a mental health condition because this may cause shame. A person’s beliefs, norms, values, and language make up ‘culture’. Culture plays a key role in every aspect of our lives, including mental health. It is important to know that it is OKAY to ask for help. There is no shame in taking care of yourself!
We are in a world in which we are constantly striving for MORE. What good is having more, or having the best if we aren’t happy with ourselves? I learned a long time ago to put ME first and my hope is that with all the lives I touch I can remind them that it is OKAY to put YOU first. DON’T LET ANYONE MAKE YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR THAT. Navigating my way through my own journey was not always easy and will always be a learning process but today I am in a better place than I once was.
Be INTENTIONAL about self-care. I had to learn to create boundaries for myself. I am known to have a hustler’s mentality that can also sometimes be my downfall. I have a tendency to overextend myself and over commit. It is important to say NO, without feeling bad about it. I am still learning how to find the time to turn myself off from the world once in a blue. I have found the importance of weekends where I have no commitments. Just time to have alone time, study, have quality time with my partner. Keeping my peace means creating safe spaces for myself both mentally and physically.
TAKE A BREAK WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED- breathe. I am an avid believer in breathing. One of my first therapy sessions as an adult, my therapist taught me behavioral habits to better manage my generalized anxiety. Breathing has become one of my go-to behaviors. The other night I had the first panic attack I have had in a very long time (because of school), and my partner knew I was still suffering hours later because of my deep breathing. It has become routine for me to begin deep breathing to soothe myself. Other things I seek out are my essential oils, CBD oil, massage therapy, crystals, clean and health(ier) living choices – our brain’s health is affected by our gut – and exercise.
Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. How someone deals with his or her own challenges will vary. For those that are lucky enough to dodge the hardships that come with mental health, educate yourself, be compassionate, and be empathetic! Do not compare yourself to others. If you are a silent sufferer, know you are not alone, reach out for help. On bad days remember; it is just a bad day and not a bad life. On the good days remember to push forward, persevere, continue to learn about yourself and practice self-care.
If I leave you with anything, let it be this: without mental health, we cannot be healthy. #mentalhealthawareness
Latinos | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness https:// https://www.nami.org/find-support/diverse-communities/latino-mental-health
Seasonal Depression (SAD) | Cleveland Clinic https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9293-seasonal-depression