Here is a typical conversation I have with my new mental health clients in the winter:
Client: “When I hear advice on improving my mental health, sometimes I listen, sometimes I follow the advice and sometimes the only thing I hear is ‘yada, yada, … yada … blah…blah, blah’. Why are so many health actions that I should take so darn hard for me to implement? Yeah, Yeah, I know vegetables with every meal – boring. Stop eating sugar – seriously, no ice cream? Exercise for an hour every single dog-gone day – like I want to heave my body on a trend mill.”
Client: “But, I want to live a healthy, happy and productive life. So, go ahead, tell me what else I have to endure to get over feeling this blahness. Run ten miles a day, right? Take pills? What do I have to do to get out of this blue funk?”
Then we talk about what a blue funk is for them.
Client: “It happens every winter. I feel better in the summer even though I can still feel the depression. It’s much worse in the winter. I don’t want to get out of bed. I’m gaining weight. I don’t want to be around family or friends and I just want to be left alone. And, the worst thing I’m struggling with is writing. Sometimes, I can’t write at all. I love writing, it’s part of my livelihood and I have publishing deadlines.”
These are classic symptoms of a form of depression. However, since this client came in during the winter, the depression is enhanced by lack of sunlight and the diagnosis is most likely Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is important to understand that Seasonal Affective Disorder can happen to people who have never had depressive issues.
Client: “Oh great, now I have a disorder that I have to live with for the rest of my life. What do I have to do now?”
After assuring my client that running ten miles a day and maybe taking medicine could be helpful and doing a thorough evaluation of their symptoms, often I suggest an easier path to begin.
Client: “You mean I just have to be in front of a Bright Therapy Light for a half hour a day? Seriously?”
Me: “You indicated that your depression occurs during the winter primarily and that you manage pretty well during the rest of the year. Let’s start with Bright Lights therapy for a few weeks and see how you feel.”
Client: “How much does that cost, I’m not made of money.”
From here I talk with the client about either using my in-office Bright Lights or purchasing one for their home. It needs to be at least a 10,000-lux light source. A Bright Light costs between $350.00 and $700.00 and should last for years.
Me: “There is some good news. If you decide to purchase a Bright Light, check with your accountant, get doctors prescriptions and you can most likely use your HSA, (Health Savings Account) account to buy it.” The other good news is that although Bright Therapy Lights are not for everyone, like people with eye issues or Bi-Polar, you are a good candidate for the lights. Everyone should check with their doctor before using Bright Therapy Lights.
Client: “Well, at least that’s something”.
Me: “Ok, if you buy one for your home, then you have to use it correctly. I often hear, “They don’t work, I don’t know why I bought it. What a waste of money”. For example, my niece made a similar comment. When I was at her house, I watched as she turned on the Bright Light, then fed her baby, did the dishes and got dressed. Being “around” the lights is ineffective. You’ll need to sit 24 -48 inches away from the lights in order for them to work. One of the benefits of being an author is that you are sitting in one spot while you write. So, buy the lights and use them while you write. And, too much of a good thing can cause problems. Start with 15 minutes in the morning and then work to 30 minutes. Try to be consistent with the time of day you have the Bright Light on.”
Client: “That’s too easy. I buy a bright light, set it up at my writing space, turn it on at the same time everyday for a half hour for a couple of weeks and my blue funk lifts? Too easy. What’s the catch?”
Me: “It is pretty easy. No catch. It usually works for most people, most of the time, according to my experience and psychological research. Want to give it a go?”
Fortunately, most people agree to give it a try and find relief. Of course, I do still encourage eating vegies, no sugar and heaving one’s body onto the trend mill.
Optimized Life Coaching