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Asperger's Adults and Winter Depression

Winter depression affects many people, but for those with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism, this phenomenon can be even more pronounced. Winter depression is a mystery to researchers who study it. Many factors seem to be involved (e.g., brain chemicals, ions in the air, genetics, etc.). But scientists agree that individuals who suffer from winter depression have one very important thing in common: they're especially sensitive to light, or the lack of it.

Here are some quick tips for overcoming winter depression:

1. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol is actually a depressant. Rather than improving your mood, it only makes it worse. Avoiding alcohol when you are already depressed is a good idea.

2. Burn some candles. If you don’t have a fireplace, do the next best thing and light some candles. Then sit and watch them burn, or read a good book beside them.

3. Do something challenging. Stretch yourself in some small way every winter (e.g., take a writing class, research the genetics of mood disorders, build a website, etc.). It keeps your brain from freezing like the rest of your body.

4. Dress in bright colors. There seems to be a link between feeling optimistic and sporting bright colors.

5. Eat healthy. Avoid refined and processed foods (e.g., white breads, rice, and sugar). These foods are not only devoid of the nutrients your body craves, but they zap your energy levels and can affect your mood—causing depression, lack of concentration, and mood swings. Depressives and addicts need to be especially careful with sweets, because the addiction to sugar and white-flour products is very real and physiological, affecting the same biochemical systems in your body as other drugs like heroin.

6. Enjoy the season. Instead of avoiding the ice and snow, look for the best that winter has to offer (e.g., ice skating, snowboarding, hockey, sledding, etc.). Enjoy these activities while they last, because they’re only here a few months each year.

7. Find a hobby. Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of depression (e.g., play bridge, sing, knit, keep a journal, etc.). The important thing is that you have something to look forward to and concentrate on.

8. Follow through with your New Year’s resolutions. There is a strong link between healthy behaviors and depression. People who exhibit healthy behaviors (e.g., exercising, not smoking, etc.) have less sad and depressed days than those whose behaviors are less than healthy.

9. Get a light lamp. Bright-light therapy, involving sitting in front of a fluorescent light box, can be as effect as antidepressant medication for mild and moderate depression.

10. Get plenty of sleep. Get 7-8 hours each night, and try to keep your bedtime and waking time consistent. That way, sleeping patterns will normalize and you’ll have more energy.

11. Get some social support. Don’t underestimate the power of friends, family, mentors, co-workers, and neighbors. Find safe people you can turn to when you’re down and need a pick-me-up.

12. Go to counseling. Counseling, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can help you cope with depression.

13. Perform daily small acts of kindness. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. A sense of purpose, committing oneself to a noble mission, and acts of altruism are strong antidotes to depression.

14. Treat yourself. Having something to look forward to can keep you motivated. Plan something that’s exciting to you (e.g., a weekend trip, a day at the spa, a party, a play, a sporting event, etc.).

15. Start and complete a project. Projects like organizing bookshelves, shredding old tax returns, and cleaning out the garage are perfect activities for the dreary months of the year.

16. Take Omega-3′s. Researchers have confirmed the positive effects of this natural, anti-inflammatory molecule on emotional health. One 500mg soft gel capsule meets the doctor-formulated 7:1 EPA to DHA ratio, needed to elevate and stabilize mood.

17. Get help if all else fails. If your symptoms are so bad that you can't live a normal life, see your doctor for medical help. Some antidepressants like Paxil and Prozac work for many individuals who suffer from the winter blues.

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