Seasonal Affective Disorder from a TCM Perspective - Root + Bones

Seasonal Affective Disorder from a TCM Perspective

Now that our exposure to daylight has drastically decreased following the turn of the seasons and the recent “fall back” time change, we are officially immersed in the Yin phase of the year that will continue until Spring. Yin energy is often represented by the feminine and by darkness – associated with energetic signatures that are receptive, cool, and intuitive, along with activities like introspection and rest. During this time of year, there is a natural tendency toward sadness, dormancy, grief, and shedding down to the essentials – which we then focus on preserving. Just as much of the natural world retreats into hibernation, so too do our needs, capacities, and internal landscapes shift, mirroring the wider ebbs and flows that govern all of life. 


While these changes to our internal landscapes are natural, the felt effects can be severely exacerbated and pathologized as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), especially when we move forcibly and disharmoniously with the rhythms of life. There’s a reason that seasonal living is such a cornerstone of preventive care in TCM, as aligning ourselves with the natural world is considered foundational to our sense of well-being. If we fight against the natural currents of life, we create disharmony (patterns of excess and deficiency) within our bodies, whereas if we learn to flow with these currents, we become adaptable and, therefore, resilient. Over-productivity and deficient dietary choices are two of the primary ways we can compromise alignment with the natural world, leading to depressed mood, compromised immunity, and potentially debilitating symptoms. 


Our bodies expend a lot of energy in the Yin phases of the year just to ward off Wind and Cold, so if we are pushing ourselves to be as productive as expected during the Yang phase of the year, we can experience symptoms of SAD like lethargy, fatigue, cognitive issues, low libido, and depression. It’s incredibly beneficial to listen to our bodies and rest more, minimize stress (on the physical, mental, and emotional levels), and make extra effort to receive restorative sleep, which can be compromised due to seasonal variation in the circadian rhythm. If possible, try to do some kind of movement outdoors during daylight hours and follow sleep hygiene practices, like limiting blue light exposure in the evenings, which can help in regulating circadian rhythm. 


Tonic Herbal Support - Our Shen blend was formulated specifically to support nourishing sleep cycles, calm the mind, lift the spirit, and promote a sense of inner peace, as well as an enhanced capacity to weather stress with grace.


The other SAD (Standard American Diet) can also play into exacerbated seasonal symptoms, whereas eating seasonally and following TCM pro-metabolic dietary principles can bring relief and fortitude. Eating seasonally helps promote harmony between Yin and Yang energies in our bodies by providing what we need exactly when we need it (e.g., heartier, grounding root veggies during the peak Yin of Autumn and Winter). Instead, many people are used to relying on excess carbs and sugar for quick boosts of energy to “power through” and meet societal productivity standards, rather than leaning on support that is actually replenishing – especially by nourishing the Kidneys and Jing. 


Tonic Herbal Support - Some of the best tonic herbs for supporting these deepest reserves are: 


Following these lifestyle tips, integrating tonic herbs into our daily lives, and incorporating food-as-medicine principles like adding warming spices into our meals, all go a long way in setting us up for a nourishing, replenishing, and restorative Yin phase of the year. In so doing, we prepare fertile ground for our vibrant reemergence come Spring.