T Talks // SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder]

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  Most people with SAD have symptoms starting in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

Source:  Mayo Clinic

I’ve meant to put up this post for quite some time but never seemed to get around to it….but I’ve always been of the mindset that my trials are meant to be a testimony.  So hopefully sharing my experience will help others of you that may also be battling with this as well.

Ever since my first year of medical school I’ve battle with the “winter blues”.  I first noticed it during the beginning of my second semester when things seemed to be particularly overwhelming with Neurophysiology (the horror!) and I was just in the DEEPEST funk ever in life.  Everything around me just seemed so bleek and cloudy and….I went through probably the deepest depression I’ve ever been in.  I couldn’t eat…I couldn’t sleep…I felt like I was going to die and possibly fail out of med school (which for me was pretty much synonymous with dying).  But then the semester ended, spring and summer came around and life was grand once again.  If only the story would have ended there….

Pretty much every single fall and winter since then has been tough.  Even as recently as last year, I would consider my second deepest period of being down and out.  And to be honest, it often correlates not just with the changes in season but also life changes and circumstances that seem to beat me up a bit as well.  But the lingering cold and darkness definitely do nothing to help things.

Believe it or not, SAD is a pretty common issue affecting mainly individual 18 to 30 years of age, with 3 out of 4 SAD sufferers being women.  It is thought to be caused by the decrease in sunlight in winter months which can affect your circadian rhythm or biological internal clock, and two chemicals in your brain: serotonin (levels play a role in your mood) and melatonin (plays a role in your sleeping pattern and mood).

Common symptoms include:
*Depression
*Anxiety
*Mood changes
*Sleep problems
*Fatigue & low energy
*Changes in appetite (overeating or undereating) & weight
*Irritability
*Loss of sexual interest or desire for physical contact
*Thoughts of suicide
*Losing interest in things once enjoyed

That last symptom is one of the reasons you guys often see a lull in my blog posts during the winter months, especially in the last two years.

But there are ways to combat SAD…other than just schlepping through until the sun comes out again.  Here are a few pro tips:

1. Light Therapy – This can be intense clinical light therapy or as simple as making your environment sunnier and brighter.
2. Talk Therapy – Psychotherapy can help identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors, help you learn healthy ways to cope, and give you tools to help manage stress
3.  Make lifestyle changes – Exercise regularly, take time to meditate and pray, eat well, and make a conscious effort to look great so you can feel just as wonderful.

I’m definitely making a conscious effort to be more proactive in fighting my battle against SAD, and I’ll be sharing how I’ll do that hopefully in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Seasonal Affective Disorder and ways to conquer it, check out the links below:

Mayo Clinic

Mental Health America

Love and God Bless,

– T

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Health & Wellness // Maintaining My Body

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Over the past few months I’ve been getting a number of comments/compliments/concerns (lol) about how my body has changed.  Basically, I look like (and I have) lost a teeny bit of weight (mostly in the right places) and apparently it’s noticeable enough.  So of course, people have been asking if I’ve been working out and what I’ve been doing to “get into shape”.  Well this is the post to answer all of those questions 🙂

To be perfectly honest, it’s been so long since I’ve worked out that I don’t even remember what the inside of a gym looks like or how it feels to wear my running shoes (says the doctor; shame indeed SMH).  And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my thyroid that’s making me lose weight.  BUT I have made some small adjustments to my diet and daily lifestyle that I think have made a pretty big impact on my body.

1.  Make Healthy Food Choices
As much as I love a good cheeseburger and fries, the truth is, you really can’t stay healthy with that as a staple in your diet.  I’ve definitely been paying attention to the nutritional value of what I consume and the benefits have been awesome.  Not only am I maintaining my body, but I also have more energy, and just overall feel better.  So oftentimes instead of having the fries, I’ll choose salmon, grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, broccoli, spinach, corn, etc.  Basically, I’ve been eating my veggies and it’s been great!  I’ve tried new things and honestly, variety is the spice of life…and health.

2. Portion Control
This has been my saving grace, honestly.  Learning to really start small and NOT to eat with my eyes has been a challenge, but it’s been great.  And I’ve developed the habit of splitting my meals in half.  For example, if I go to Chipotle (you guys know I LOVE me some Chipotle!), I rarely ever eat the entire bowl, unless I’m just abnormally famished.  That bowl gets split in two and divided into two meals.  Similarly, if I go out to a restaurant to eat, I almost ALWAYS leave with a doggy bag.  Never mind the fact that I’m making sure I have room for dessert….*hides face*.  But I’ve also learned to identify when I’m satisfied an not to push my stomach to have more just because I’m feeling greedy.  And that 20-minute rule really is legit!  It takes your stomach about 20 minutes to know if you’re actually still hungry or not.  So if you slow down and take 20 minutes to eat, and still feel hungry afterwards, then by all means enjoy having seconds!  But even then, watch your portions and lay off the carbs (rice, pasta, other starches) the second time around.

3. NEVER Skip Meals, ESPECIALLY Breakfast
I HATE the feeling of skipping meals because that hunger attack is unlike any other!  And you know what that leads to? Overeating.  And the only way to prevent that is by never skipping meals especially breakfast.  Even if that means grabbing a piece of fruit, drinking an Ensure (I always get made fun of for that but hey! Breakfast is breakfast! lol), a granola bar.  Anything for breakfast is better than nothing. Truly.  Get into the habit of eating regularly scheduled meals daily and if nothing else, it’ll sure make you a happier person lol.

4. Reduce Juice & Eliminate Sodas
Real talk,one bottle of  juice in my apartment lasts….for weeks…sometimes months on end.  And I VERY rarely have a soda.  I just don’t feel the need to have it with or after my meals.  If I’m thirsty, I usually reach for water.  This is actually the advice that I give to a lot of my pediatric patients and their parents:  If you’re trying to cut out empty calories and lose some of the extra weight, cut out juices and sodas as much as you can.  They really are just empty sugar calories with zero nutritional value that does nothing but pack on the pounds.  You will really be amazed at the change you’ll see if you cut out juice and sodas.

5. Water, Water, Water
See above…lol.  Replace your juices and sodas with glasses of water and you’ll see an overall improvement in not just your body habitus, but your skin will flourish and your intestinal system will thank you as well.

6.  Cook More; Eat Out Less
Yup, if you don’t know how to cook, there’s no time like the present to learn.  And these days, there’s really no excuse with tutorials for EVERYTHING be on YouTube these days, tons of food blogs, and Pinterest??? Listen….cooking for yourself allows you to control what goes into your meal and ultimately  your body.  So try it!  And even when you eat out, the key once again is to make healthy choices and watch your portions.

7.  Take the Stairs & Walk When You Can
Like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the inside of a gym.  But just making the simple decision to take the stairs and walk whenever I can has helped me to stay a little bit active.  And luckily for me, the hospital campus where I work is pretty big and walking from one end to the other (which I do almost every day) has got to be at least half a mile.  So I try to do that often and stay moving.

8. Get a Good Night’s Rest
This is definitely something that I’ve been working on for quite some time and still haven’t perfected.  I’m a night owl.  I come alive in the nighttime! lol But…that doesn’t correlate well with 5:30/6 am wake-up times.  And getting a good night’s sleep really helps the body to relax, unwind, rest, and re-energize for the next day.  You’ll definitely feel better and less sluggish, and your body will thank you for it.

9. Listen to Your Body
When your body has had enough, it will let you know!  Whether it’s feeling sluggish after eating certain foods or neglecting to stay active, or having narcoleptic episodes because of lack of sleep (Pray church…smh), your body tells you what it needs.  Listen to it and respond appropriately.  You’ll see a difference when you pay attention.

10. Don’t Obsess Over Losing Weight
I NEVER think about or try to lose or gain weight.  Obsessing over that fact will do nothing but stress you out.  So not worth it.  Just focus on being and feeling healthy and the weight loss aspect will come.

Hope these tips help some of you out there especially if you’re jus trying to maintain and not really lose weight.  And remember, nothing can substitute a good workout!  I definitely always feel better and more energized after a good jog or Zumba session. *sigh* I really need to get my life together and get back in the gym!  But until I have a bit more time, these tips really do help me fight half the battle.

Until next time…

Love and God Bless,

– T

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My Feature in Sesi Magazine! (^_^)

Hey guys!  So 6 WHOLE months ago I was asked to be featured in an article for the relaunch of Sesi Magazine , a quarterly magazine created by Andrea Butler and based out of Washington, D.C. that caters to adolescent African American young women (and anyone who knows me knows how much compassion I have for the wellbeing of teenagers, especially teenage girls).  In their own words, here’s what Sesi Magazine is all about:

Sesi is dedicated to providing Black teen girls ages 13 to 19 with not only a magazine, but a community that celebrates who they are and where they come from.

Sesi, which means “sister” in the Sotho language of South Africa, is the fresh, new teen magazine edited for YOU, today’s eclectic Black teenage girl. It is dedicated to providing you with a community that focuses on celebrating you and your culture by covering beauty, fashion, relationships, health, education, careers, entertainment, social issues, and more.

At Sesi, we know you are searching for a magazine that dedicates itself to aspects of Black culture such as music, movies, celebrities, hair care, beauty and fashion. We also recognize that you are also concerned about social issues, future education and careers, culture, health and relationships, and we cover the entire gamut.

Being passionate about the adolescent population and having two teenage sisters who are the ideal target audience for a magazine like Sesi, I was definitely drawn to the magazine and the brand and was super excited to have the opportunity to be featured in their Winter 2012 quarterly issue!  And I can’t believe I forgot to share it with you guys! Thanks so much to Andrea for sending me a copy of the feature and allowing me to share it with you all on the blog today 🙂

Work It, Girl Winter-page-2

If you’re interested in learning more about Sesi Magazine, head over to their website and subscribe to the magazine!  It’s only $8.00 for a one year subscription to the quarterly magazine.  Definitely worth missing 2 cups of Starbucks coffee! lol

Love and God Bless,

– T