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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

January Alumni News

Getting S.M.A.R.T. for 2017

Did you know that between 80 and 90% of those who make New Year’s Resolutions abandon those resolutions by the 1st of February?  Do you have a resolution that you’d like to keep or a goal that you really want to achieve? Utilizing a method called S.M.A.R.T. goal setting may be the tool that you need to add to your plan.  

S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time Sensitive

If your goals meet all of these criteria, you are far more likely to achieve them.

Below is an example of making a goal S.M.A.R.T.

  • Specific

Typical new Year’s Goal:  I am going to get in shape.

Changing that goal to a specific would be: I am going to Change my BMI (body mass index) from X to Y by working out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for at least an hour for the next six months.

  • Measurable

Now we see how a specific goal tends to be measurable. Two things can be measured here:

1. BMI from X to Y

2. How many weeks I worked out according to my goals schedule.

  • Achievable

In this scenario, it would be best to consult a physician and trainer about your goal of getting your BMI from X to Y in 6 months to help determine if it is achievable.

  • Realistic

The best way to ensure that your goal is realistic is to develop a plan. In this scenario, without a detailed and well-developed exercise plan, your goal of getting your BMI from X to Y in six months could be unrealistic. Plans make goals realistic. 

  • Time Sensitive

In our scenario, six months is clearly stated in the specifics. Setting a specific time frame for your goal will help you stay on track and keep motivated.

Take your New Year’s resolution and apply the S.M.A.R.T. method and let us know how you do!  


Feeling a little SAD?

Winter is a tough season for almost everyone. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is related to a lack of sunlight during dark months. Bad weather, cold temperatures and the dark days of winter can have a profound effect on many of us. Those in early recovery are especially vulnerable to relapse when the symptoms of SAD go unchecked. 

What are the symptoms of SAD?

SAD symptoms are very similar to those found in a diagnosis of clinical depression. These might include a depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, changes in sleep and appetite, a loss of pleasure in activities you once loved, and even thoughts of death or suicide. Persons with the winter version of SAD might also notice the following unique symptoms:

  • Cravings for carbohydrates/weight gain
  • Frequent oversleeping
  • Heaviness in arms and legs
  • Relationship problems

What causes SAD

Researchers have yet to uncover the specific cause for SAD. We do know however, that several factors are at play. The reduction in sunlight in winter can upset our “biological clock” which controls our sleep / wake patterns and can cause problems with serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood.

If you are young and female, you are also at increased risk for SAD. People who live farther from the equator or have a family history of depression also experience the symptoms more frequently.

What treatments might work for me?

As with any mental health disorder, there is no answer that works for everyone. Here are a few options to explore with your doctor:

  • Medication 
  • Antidepressants have proven to be effective for people with SAD, especially those with intense symptoms. Medication requires patience, because it can take several weeks before you begin to feel the effects. It’s also important not to stop taking the medication if you feel better. Consult with your doctor before you change your dosage, and let him or her know if you experience any side effects.
  • Psychotherapy
  • Talk therapy can be an invaluable option for those with SAD. A psychotherapist can help you identify patterns in negative thinking and behavior that impact depression, learn positive ways of coping with symptoms, and institute relaxation techniques that can help you restore lost energy.
  • Light Therapy
  • Phototherapy involves exposing oneself to light via a special box or lamp. This device produces similar effects to natural light, triggering chemicals in your brain that help regulate your mood. This treatment has proven effective especially for those who experience the winter version of SAD. Consult your doctor to determine the treatment approach that is best for you.

In addition to seeking help from your doctor, there are lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms and lift your mood. You might try going outside more often, getting plenty of sunshine, exercising, getting plenty of sleep, and practicing relaxation exercises.

Planning a healthier lifestyle is never a bad idea. But don’t beat yourself up if your symptoms don’t improve right away. Don’t brush them off as the January blues and simply hunker down until spring. Asking for help is a sign of strength and movement towards a better version of yourself. Consider how you can start managing seasonal affective disorder today and live a healthier life in every season.

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