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PUBLISHED: 2:35 PM on Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Taking some fancy steps to slow Seasonal Affective Disorder
It is that time of year again, when despite the abundance of snow and outdoor activities, as many as one in 10 Juneauites wind down.

The cause is a now well-known but rather infrequently treated disorder, winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Several remedies exist to help those affected by SAD control a disorder that leaves many wanting to remain bed until spring.

Some of SAD's characteristics have been compared to hibernation. Sufferers report feeling lackadaisical and glum, devoid of creativity, hungry for carbohydrates and craving sleep, said Dr. Joy Neyhart, a Juneau pediatrician, who hears both children and adults report symptoms each winter.

Experts said about 14 million American adults are severely affected by SAD. Another 33 million have milder symptoms including energy loss, unhappiness and lack of productivity.

Experts said some of the symptoms of SAD are similar to depression, but there are important differences between the two. In particular, the length of time and the severity of symptoms are key indicators.

Five ideas to reduce SAD

• Rule out something more serious. First make sure your symptoms aren't a sign of physical illness or long-term clinical depression. See a medical professional if you have any questions.

• Take a vacation to a sunny, warm climate. Visiting a place where the days are longer than they are in Southern Alaska in mid winter can provide a respite, according to Dr. Norman E. Rosenthal, a SAD expert and author of ''Winter Blues: Everything You Need to Know to Beat Seasonal Affective Disorder.''

• Set up a regular exercise routine. Join a neighbor for an early morning or evening walk. Make a cross-country ski date or join an ice skating class. Exercise helps manage stress, which can exacerbate symptoms, Neyhart said. She said a recent medical study showed that spending an hour outside-even when conditions are rainy, snowy or overcast, yields more light than sitting in front of a light box for the same amount of time.

• Make a social calendar and dance. One of the self-perpetuating symptoms of SAD is isolation from other people. Regular dates with friends can help you stay connected to others. The Juneau Montessori School has an event organized at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, that will get your feet tapping and help you reconnect with friends and neighbors. It's the Sixth Annual Hot Salsa Cool Ballroom gala. Music at the event will be performed by Juneau's Salsa Borealis and Thunder Mountain Big Band. A brief dance class will be held at 7 p.m. Elementary age children who want to practice their ballroom dance skills are welcome to come for free.

Accompanying adults can get their tickets at Hearthside Books or through Montessori families. For more information, call 364-3535.


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