By Shannon Bachorick, RA®, EOT®, CAHP®
It’s January. It is cold, dark, and there are 31 long days of it. All of the holiday joy has been put away until next year, and skeletons of Christmas trees are littering front lawns waiting to be recycled. If that scene isn’t dismal enough, much of the country is freezing under a polar vortex. All this makes for a very SAD situation.
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects people throughout the world but is more prevalent the further you live from the Equator. It occurs primarily during winter, when there is increased cloud cover and fewer hours of sunlight during the day. People experiencing SAD typically feel unhappy or even depressed, and they sleep and eat more. They lose interest in work and other activities they once enjoyed. It is much like clinical depression, but it experienced only during a certain time during the year.
Even though we know SAD is cyclical and short-lived, it is still not pleasant to endure. Some people find relief with special light therapy lamps that mimic sunlight. Aromatherapy is another effective way to chase away the blues. Inhaling essential oils, especially with a nasal inhaler, is the quickest and safest way to get essential oils into your body and interacting with your limbic system.
When using aromatherapy for SAD, it is best to reach for oils that will support you emotionally by soothing and uplifting your mood and energizing your spirit. Citrus oils are like sunshine in a bottle and will perk you up instantly. Lemon, lime and sweet orange are bright and invigorating. Bergamot, mandarin and yuzu are slightly more floral not as sparkly but have the added benefit of alleviating sad and anxious feelings. Grapefruit is wonderfully energizing, and is also often used as an appetite suppressant. Choose any or all of these oils to create a master blend and have at the ready for when you start to feel SAD.
When diffusing essential oils, add five drops of undiluted oil to an ultrasonic diffuser and diffuse for 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off to avoid becoming overwhelmed or having the oils produce the opposite effect of what they are meant to do. When taking a nasal inhaler on the go, add a maximum of 15 drops of essential oil and inhale as needed. While diffuser jewellery is another great way to use aromatherapy throughout your day, it is best to choose non-phototoxic essential oils and dilute the oils before applying to your diffuser jewellery. From the list provided above, caution must be taken with lemon, lime, grapefruit and especially bergamot. Use furocoumarin-free bergamot and the steam-distilled version of the other citrus oils to be safe from irritation.
Alleviating the symptoms of SAD will help you enjoy life again, get you off the couch and away from the fridge, and outside to enjoy the longer days and brighter skies. Spring is on the horizon, sometimes we need a little help opening our senses to see how close it is!
About the author: Shannon Bachorick received her aromatherapy certification in 2017 and is currently working toward certification in reflexology. She practises in Regina, Saskatchewan, and is the founder of Santéssence Aromatherapy.