With winter fast approaching, True North, a division within the U.S. Air Force that supports strengthening military members’ resilience and their mental health, is taking the initiative to combat seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, with mood-boosting stations for the 673d Security Forces Squadron.
“I’ve seen how the winter months can have an effect on people up here,” said Tech. Sgt. Lance Brennan, a Security Forces flight chief. “Especially in December and January when it’s super dark all the time. On the night shift, we won’t see the sun for who knows how long.”
Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during winter when daylight hours are short and outdoor weather is less than welcoming. The lack of sunlight can cause a sharp decrease in Vitamin D levels. The drastic change in the environment hits some harder than others.
“Getting outside helps,” said Brennan. “For example, on my off days, I like to hunt, fish and shoot archery.”
This winter, True North aims to coach arctic warriors on easy techniques to fight SAD through strategic exposure and social norming. Providing different mood-boosting stations throughout the Base Defense Operation Center allows service members easy access to some simple stress-relieving strategies between shift changes. True North representative Jennnifer Frysz, hopes that through these programs, Airmen will adopt these habits in their self-care routines to battle SAD.
“Winter is here, so we are preparing ourselves for change,” said Jennifer Frysz, a True North provider embedded in the 673d SFS. “One of the key factors in mission readiness is to understand, plan, and fulfill core responsibilities, so we can reduce emerging threats.”
Set-ups included a centralized happy light station: composed of five to six lights, this area welcomed Defenders to sit comfortably at a table to socialize or relax while getting the benefits of phototherapy.
Happy lights mimic natural sunlight, which can help regulate your body’s internal clock and boost mood. Exposure to bright light for a certain amount of time each day can combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder and alleviate symptoms of depression. They can also be borrowed from the Military and Family Readiness Center in Building 600.
A hydration and dark chocolate station provided free grab-and-go water and dark chocolate with more than 70% cacao. Proper hydration optimizers performance and endurance, and the high levels of cacao in dark chocolate are a known mood booster. Studies have shown consuming 70% or more dark chocolate with the least amount of added sugar, in moderation, has some health benefits.
“Things like hydrating, processing a thought and letting it go, and sitting at the light stations can help with mood and energy, and a little piece of dark chocolate can also provide a mini boost of caffeine,” said Frysz.
An aromatherapy station filled the 673d Security Forces Squadron’s halls with citrus-scented essential oil. Scents like orange, peppermint, lemon, ginger, cinnamon, and rosemary can reduce anxiety and provide stress relief, Frysz said.
“When you think about all the senses needing to be on point, from the weight of the equipment they wear, to hearing the radio calls, a keen eye for anything that is a potential risk, and yes, even their sense of smell to assess if someone had been drinking, then readiness is essential,” said Frysz.
A shred station provided the tools and space for Defenders to practice a grounding technique where disrupting thoughts are written down on paper and then shredded as a symbolic way of letting things go.
“If you are preparing for duty and you had a stressful moment on the way or you have something come up personally, it can be hard to turn on your work mentality and be ready for the public at the gates and visitor centers or even being on the phones ready for a call,” said Frysz.
Combating SAD during the winter months can be a challenge, but with the right strategies and tools, it is possible for Defenders to uplift their mood and overall well-being.
“These stations are part one of ways to be ready before work,” said Frysz. “We are modeling techniques to troops so they can practice on their own. It’s easy to tell someone to do something that will help, but modeling and practicing together, allows the brain to get the experience, so you know what to do.”
Another way to combat SAD is taking vitamin D supplements; the Family Health Clinic advises taking 2,000 units daily. For tailored guidance, consult your primary care provider.
Eating foods that boosts immunity and conducting healthy routines also strengthens mental resilience.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Jonathan Brown, installation director of psychological health, stresses the importance of sleep hygiene practices, staying connected to others, and staying active with low impact exercises.
By incorporating these strategies into their daily routine, service and family members can take proactive steps towards combating seasonal depression this winter. Remember to consult a healthcare professional if you are experiencing severe symptoms or if your condition worsens.
|JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, AK, US
This work, Mission readiness starts with combating seasonal affective disorder, by A1C Quatasia Carter, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.