All posts by S.O.

Quick Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

Asian pregnant woman make heart shape with hand on her stomach

Luckily we live in a world where pregnancy and parenting resources abound, containing a vast amount of helpful information for a healthful pregnancy. Keep reading to see some of our favorite prenatal tidbits for expecting mommas!

Change Your Diet to Suit Your Baby

Contrary to the public opinion that pregnant women are “eating for two”, they really only need to consume between 300-500 additional calories a day. These calories should take the form of healthy meals and snacks to ensure baby is eating well in there too. Here are some suggested guidelines:

  1. Do eat flaxseed! This superfood is jam-packed with goodies such as omega-3 fatty acids and extra fiber. It also helps lower cholesterol levels which can be on the rise during pregnancy.   
  2. Don’t consume much caffeine. Most medical experts cap it at about 200mg (11oz) of caffeine daily.
  3. Do eat small meals throughout the day as opposed to big ones. This can help stave off lethargy, giving you little energy surges to replace caffeine.
  4. Don’t opt for sandwiches containing deli meats, as they can harbor listeria, a bacteria that can be very harmful to unborn babies.
  5. Do drink a surplus of fluids, water in particular (about 10 glasses a day), and be sure to avoid artificial colorings and additives.
  6. Don’t ingest much mercury – avoid foods high in mercury including swordfish, mackerel or dark tunas.
  7. Do eat certain types of low-mercury seafood that contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and shrimp.
  8. Don’t take any herbal or over the counter medicine without speaking to your doctor or pharmacist first.

Pregnancy Safety Tips

  • Quit smoking, and also avoid second hand smoke at all costs as the irritants can be detrimental to your little one.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals, such as those found in strong cleaning products.
  • Stop gardening and changing cat litter to avoid toxoplasmosis, a parasite strain commonly found in cats and soil that could be potentially fatal to a vulnerable unborn child.
  • When driving, wear your seat belt across your thighs as opposed to over your belly, and sit as far away from an air bag as possible to avoid the potentially tragic repercussions of its deployment.
  • Get plenty of sleep and rest. Pregnancy can be exhausting and come with heavy fatigue. It is important not to overwork yourself, as your baby can be in distress if you aren’t getting enough rest. Remember, you are resting for two!

Pregnancy Fitness

While you probably shouldn’t be participating in competitive gymnastics while pregnant, you definitely should be getting regular exercise. Exercise can bring a multitude of benefits to pregnancy, such as keeping your weight under control (if you gain too much, it will be harder to shed the pounds post-birth), switching up the routine for your tiny tenant (the movement can even be soothing for some babies), and helping prepare your body better for the tall task of giving birth. Some great pregnancy exercises include:

  1. Swimmingthis is one of the best exercises for pregnant women, as it is very easy on the joints and can help you keep fit without working too hard.
  2. Stretching – there are many stretching exercises such as pelvic tilts, that can help ready the body for birth, and avoid muscle cramps that sometimes come along with pregnancy.
  3. Walking – Walking is a safe form of exercise you can do all the way through your pregnancy. If you are a runner, you don’t necessarily have to give it up cold turkey when you are pregnant; there are certain guidelines you can follow to safely jog during certain times of your pregnancy – but only if you are an experienced runner, as it can be dangerous if not done properly. 
  4. Prenatal Yoga – tailored yoga activities can help strengthen your muscles so you are better able to carry around a baby and all of their accessories after you give birth.

Parenting Preparation

Educate yourself about what to expect during the labor and delivery, as well as premature labor warning signs to look out for. Pack a hospital bag in advance of your expected due date and remember to include important items such as your camera (with batteries and memory card!) and insurance information. If it is your first pregnancy, you can research different classes to take such as childbirth classes, breast-feeding classes or parenting classes with your partner or a close family member.

Zika – What You Need to Know

Pixelated Zika

Zika is a virus of the Flaviviridae family that is transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. It has been likened to the Dengue and West Nile viruses which are both contracted from the same type of mosquito. 


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the first documented human case of Zika was in Uganda in 1952. There have been various outbreaks since then in over 20 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and other areas of the Pacific. Unlike in some continents, the virus has been well contained in North America. There have only been 31 documented cases of Zika in the United States and none of them were contracted locally, only by those who had recently traveled to highly infectious areas such as Brazil.

Zika Symptoms

Luckily, Zika is not known to be a deadly virus. Only about one fifth of people who contract Zika will exhibit any symptoms at all, and symptoms that are present are generally mild, lasting for about a week. These include low-grade fever, rash, mild joint and muscle pain and headache. There has been a form of temporary paralysis called Guillain-Barré syndrome associated with Zika as well, but it is quite rare.

Pregnant Women – Be Extra Cautious

The worst suspected complication of Zika concerns pregnant women. Though further research is underway, medical scientists have established a connection between Zika and the rise of a previously rare fetal neurodevelopmental disorder called microcephaly. Babies born with microcephaly have a smaller, deformed skull and often have cognitive impairment due to their underdeveloped brains. 

What Are Authorities Doing About the Issue?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), aside from working to develop a Zika vaccine, experts are:

  • Prioritizing Zika research
  • Bettering laboratories across the world to detect and handle the virus
  • Enhancing surveillance of Zika outbreaks and potential complications
  • Working to control Aedes mosquito populations
  • Preparing clinical follow-up care for those infected with the virus.

How to Protect Yourself

As with any mosquito-carried virus the number one preventative measure is avoiding mosquito bites, especially when traveling to highly infectious areas. Use insect repellant, wear clothing that covers your skin, and sleep in tents with screens or mosquito nets when exposed to the elements. The WHO advises to cover or frequently clean containers that hold fluids such as flower pots, as mosquitos can easily breed in those environments. The immunocompromised should be especially cautious, as they may be more vulnerable to contracting any virus. 


There is no vaccine developed yet for Zika, and authorities warn that there may not be one for at least a year or two. Infected people rarely require hospitalization, and can usually overcome the virus with plenty of bedrest, lots of fluids and acetaminophen-based over the counter pain relievers. However, should you become infected with Zika and your symptoms don’t improve within a week, you should consult your doctor (or one of our highly skilled DocChat physicians).

Insomnia – How To Get More Sleep

Sleeping couple

If you, or someone close to you has chronic sleeping problems, you certainly know the toll an absence of slumber can have on staying healthy, happy, and sometimes merely functioning. We need sleep to fuel our bodies. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institution (NHLBI) says, “During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.” Let’s take a look at what constitutes insomnia, as well as some techniques to help catch some zzz’s!

Mind Over Mattress

Chronic insomnia, is classified as a sleep problem under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-V) as a mental health condition. It often springs from an over-active mind, or a surplus of anxiety. It can also be caused by certain medications or physical distress, such as illness or chronic pain. Many people think that 6 hours of sleep every night is enough, but according to The National Sleep Foundation most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep to function efficiently.

Being Sleepy Kills

Now, this is a bench mark. Some people need more, perhaps 10 hours to be their best selves, and some are perfectly used to just 5 or 6. However, getting a minimal amount of sleep will slowly chip away at your wellbeing over time. Not only will you be sluggish and zombie-esque, but states that chronic sleep deprivation is responsible for 100,000 traffic accidents, 76,000 injuries, and 1,500 deaths a year! These stats should wake us all up to just how important getting adequate sleep can be.

Tired and Tubby

Even though insomnia has mental health roots, it also affects, or can be affected by the physical. The NHLBI states that chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to such significant health issues as heart problems, kidney disease, blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. “Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down.” The NHLIB also asserts that sleep deprivation affects how your body metabolizes insulin, which can eventually contribute to diabetes as well.

A Coy Midnight Caller

When Sir Slumber is being aloof, what can you do to beckon him back for a visit? Aside from sleeping pills, there have been all kinds of things discovered and developed over the years to help insomnia. Some of which include relaxation and meditative techniques, natural oils, sleepy-time teas, specialized sound effects or visuals, and melatonin, among many others. Experts also say that keeping your room cool during the night, while keeping your socks on during the night can help induce a long, comfy sleep.

Pop a Melatonin

My partner, Mark has been an insomniac since he was very young. He has tried every kind of sleeping pill on the market to no avail, but has recently had significant success with a nightly dose of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone excreted by the body’s pineal gland which facilitates sleep, and the pill Melatonin is a synthetic replication of said hormone. Its effectiveness is debated in the medical community, but it does seem to provide many with much needed night-time peace.

A Sleepy Routine

Mark also finds keeping on a bedtime routine beneficial. The experts at Helpguide, a non-profit mental health wellness organization, advise “Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.” Mark also finds that calming mind activities help invite sleep, such as coming up with a band name for each letter or the alphabet, or saying the alphabet backwards and frontwards in his mind until he falls asleep midway through.

Sunny and Sleepy

According to Helpguide, some other techniques that have been proven to help coax sleep include: avoiding caffeine in the evening or heavy eating before bed, getting regular exercise, and unplugging a couple hours before bedtime. Possibly chief among these tactics is exposing yourself to enough sunlight daily to help the body’s sleep-wake cycle. According to Dr. Mercola, Osteopathic Physician and best-selling wellness author, “One of the key foundational components of sleeping well is maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night.”  Having a warm bath infused with lavender right before bed is another must-try technique for insomniacs.

We hope the information above helps you rest better! Thanks for stopping by DocChat – we always love to have you.

Fast Facts About Telemedicine

Telemedicine word cloud

Here are some facts about the newly advancing telemedicine field that you may not know:

  • Over 78% of Doctor’s visits can be handled via telemedicine
  • Overcrowded U.S. emergency rooms see over 136 million visits annually
  • Only 11% of ER visits end in admission
  • Rural citizens have to travel an average of 60 miles to receive speciality care
  • Telemedicine can benefit the nearly 50 million Americans who live in highly remote rural areas without readily available healthcare
  • Urinary Tract Infections account for over 8 million doctor’s visits annually, and can be easily diagnosed and treated via telemedicine
  • Over half of U.S. hospitals utilize telemedicine
  • Telemedicine could deliver over $6 billion in healthcare savings to U.S. companies annually
  • 67% of healthcare professionals either use, or plan to use some form of telemedicine
  • The global telemedicine market is forecasted to reach $36 300 000 000 by 2020
  • According to the TRC, “Mortality rate dropped from 13.6% to 11.8% after tele-ICU was implemented, and length of stay in the ICU fell from 13.3 days of 9.8.”
  • In 2004 alone, prisons in California utilized 9 000 telemedicine videoconferences for prisoners, saving taxpayers $4 million
  • Tele-monitoring of chronic conditions reduces ER visits by 83%
  • Telemedicine companies such as DocChat can correlate specialist video consultations
  • The average wait-time for a doctor’s appointment in urban areas is 18.5 days
  • Over 17% of cell phone owners have used their phones to seek health advice


The Dreaded U.T.I. – Treatment and Prevention


Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are among the most common conditions treated by doctors. According to Liberator Medical, “UTI infections occur when tiny organisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, adhere to the opening of the urethra and begin to reproduce.”

UTIs are responsible for 8.3 million doctor’s visits a year in the United States, with 6.6 million of those cases being women. Women are at greater risk for contracting UTIs because of shorter urethras, which allow more bacteria to enter the bladder than men’s do. Approximately half of all women will experience at least one UTI over the course of their lifetimes, and a whopping 1 in 4 will experience recurrent UTIs, but there are some things we can do to cut down on the frequency of UTIs.


Symptoms of a UTI include a burning sensation or discomfort upon urination, bloody or cloudy urine, false pee-alarms (feeling like you have to urinate, but then being unable to fully do so), redness or irritation around the area, or in more serious cases fever and severe back pain, indicating that the infection has spread internally.

Potential Complications

While some UTIs resolve themselves, most cases require antibiotic treatment to rid the bladder of harmful bacteria. It is important to visit your doctor when you notice UTI symptoms, as UTIs can actually lead to dangerous complications if left unchecked such as sepsis, a potentially deadly infection. UTIs can also spread to your kidneys causing a host of new problems including acute kidney infections or even permanent damage.

Preventative Measures

While it remains a contentious topic within the scientific community, many doctors recommend consuming cranberries on a regular basis if you are prone to UTIs because of their plentiful antioxidants. There are cranberry extract pills available to those who don’t like cranberries or cranberry juice.

Doctors recommend staying well hydrated to help continually flush out any toxins or unwanted bacteria that could potentially lead to UTIs. Other preventative measures include urinating directly after sex – don’t wait until after the post-coital cuddle session to pee, your partner won’t mind waiting a few minutes for those cuddles if it means a healthier you. It isn’t a bad idea to rinse the area after sex to eliminate any bacteria that may be lingering from the bedroom activities.

It is also recommend to wipe yourself front to back after using the washroom to prevent harmful E. coli bacteria from entering the urethra. A couple steps further in UTI prevention would be to avoid using harsh soaps, laundry detergent or perfumed products in that area which is very sensitive, as well as ensuring not to wear material that irritates your skin.

UTIs in Men

While they are more common in women, men account for about 20% of UTI doctor’s visits. Uncircumcised men are at greater risk of developing UTIs, as bacteria collects in the extra folds of skin. There are other factors that put some men at a grater risk of contracting a UTI such as: men with an obstruction such as a kidney stone which hinders the flow of urine, those with enlarged prostate glands, or men with catheters for unrelated medical conditions.

Some men don’t display the typical symptoms of a UTI, making it more difficult to diagnose and treat. Although, generally speaking many of the symptoms, complications and antibiotic treatments are the same for men as they are for women.

Don’t Let Stress Commandeer Your Life

It is almost impossible to find one consistent definition of stress, but it is essentially defined as “a state of mental (and physiological) tension, anxiety or worry caused by problems in your life.”

Fight or Flight

Our bodies are preprogrammed to respond to the stress of impending threats such as predators, but in our modern-day sky-scraper jungles we have different stressors than those of our stone-age predecessors. Many people nowadays are chronically stressed because they are workaholics, caretakers for sick family or chronically ill themselves, or struggling with heavy debt. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands (adjacent to the kidneys) release a cocktail of hormones including adrenaline and more abundantly, cortisol. Cortisol has been coined the “stress hormone” because of its prominent role in this fight or flight response. 

A Closer Look at Cortisol

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone which is released upon waking, during rigorous exercise or during acutely stressful events. While cortisol is important for its role in warning the body of danger, it has other responsibilities as well. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Dina Aronson says, “Cortisol also plays an important role in human nutrition. It regulates energy by selecting the right type and amount of substrate (carbohydrate, fat, or protein) the body needs to meet the physiological demands placed on it.” However, cortisol is to blame for negative effects on the body as well, especially when it is over-released due to chronic stress.

Effects of Too Much Cortisol

According to Aronson, some of the ill-effects caused by chronically elevated cortisol levels include:

  1. Gastrointestinal effects: Tummy health is closely connected to the immune system, and when the immune system is interrupted by roller-coaster cortisol levels, stomach trouble such as IBS often ensues.
  2. Adrenal fatigue: After years of overuse, the adrenal glands eventually tire, releasing much less of adrenaline and cortisol than the body has become accustomed to, resulting in a complete crash of the system – fatigue, the blues, a loss of vigor.
  3. Immune system conditions: Even though cortisol helps temporarily reduce inflammation, it can actually have the reverse effect over time, suppressing the immune system which can lead to conditions rife with systemic inflammation, like Lupus. 
  4. Cardiovascular disease: Cortisol increases blood pressure in an attempt to re-oxygenate the blood. Chronic over-stimulation of the adrenal glands also means chronically elevated blood pressure, which as we know, leads to serious heart problems.
  5. Weight gain and obesity: Cortisol increases blood glucose levels and suppress insulin, which is a bad combination if happening too frequently. It can lead to starving cells sending too many hunger signals to the brain.
  6. Fertility and sexual problems: Wellness Guru Dr. Lissa Rankin calls Cortisol the “anti-viagra”, as it can completely obliterate sex drive and sexual function in excess. 

The Importance of Lowering Chronic Stress Levels

After taking a look at the many ill-effects and risks of long term stress and cortisol elevation, it goes without saying we should all be cognizant of our stress and work to lower it. I’m sure you have heard that Type A people are more likely to have issues because of their consistently higher stress levels; according to AboutHealth “High blood pressure is common among ‘Type A’ personalities, and has been documented by research to be as much as 84% more of a risk among those with Type A characteristics.” So if you are a Type A person, or just someone who can’t seem to get out of firing range of stress, it may be time to make a change for the sake of your health and future.

Treatment and Stress Management Techniques

Due to the impacts of chronic stress on the heart, the American Heart Association has developed a comprehensive and thorough stress management plan. Some of the highlights from this plan include:

  • Positive Self-Talk: Our perspective can change how we view and deal with a stressful situation, if we are stuck in a negative self-talk loop things may turn out worse – a self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity – so framing things more positively can help you cope.
  • Remove yourself from stressful situations for a break to regroup before handling it; this can help clear your head to better deal with acute stress.
  • Count to 10 or take 3 or 4 deep breaths before responding in a high stress situation like an interview or argument.
  • Engage in pleasurable activities to help redirect your feelings. Try painting, coffee with a friend, a nature walk or cuddle with a spouse when you start to feel anxiety rising.
  • Relaxation is an essential strategy to master when it comes to chronic stress. Try meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, or a guided imagery break.

If you find that some of these facts and figures are hitting close to home, do yourself a favor and find a stress management plan that best suits your life and needs. Your body will thank you!

10 Healthy Alternatives to Favorite Dishes

Many of our favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ dishes can be substituted with alternatives that are much healthier but equally as delicious. Here are 10 of our favorite not-so-guilty pleasure healthy alternatives. We hope you find some new favorites here to incorporate into your meal plans!

1. Cauliflower Green Pizza

Pizza lovers, rejoice! This Food Network recipe includes a cauliflower crust topped with spinach and zucchini. It also makes a great substitution for those with gluten or egg allergies. Another healthier alternative is a veggie-based tortilla as the crust, then add your favorite toppings for a delectable, thin crust pizza.

2. Oatmeal Pancakes with Fruit

These flapjacks just require a few ingredients: eggs, oats, baking powder, salt and your choice of fruit. You can either put the fruit on top afterwards or add it to the batter (we are partial to blueberries). They wouldn’t be complete without a bit of regular maple syrup, or use an alternative such as agave syrup.

3. Black Bean Brownies

Check out these black bean brownies that actually taste like regular brownies – not only does it disguise the main ingredient from your tastebuds, but also they are gluten free and sweetened with stevia and agave syrup. What more could you ask for?

4. Lettuce wraps

For your next lunchtime wrap, try eliminating the wrap or bread altogether, and substituting it with a piece of romaine lettuce for a healthier, ready-to-eat roll. This way, you ditch the extra calories, but still get your fill and the same convenience.

5. Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Try adding different veggies, such as peas, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower or spinach to your favorite mac and cheese recipe for additional nutrients. You can even go a couple steps further and use less cheese, adding some low-fat cream cheese for texture.  Other options include using veggie noodles, brown rice or spinach-based pasta.

6. Spaghetti Squash

To make spaghetti squash, you simply poke some air holes in the exterior of the squash, heat it in the microwave for a few minutes, then cut it in half and remove the seeds. Use a fork to scrape at the squash flesh to create “pasta” texture. Then add your favorite homemade sauce and some turkey meatballs, and you have a satisfying supper.

7. Cinnamon Toast “Munch”

This is a great healthy homemade cereal substitute for your favorite sugary store-bought breakfast cereals. It includes sprouted whole grain (or puffed brown rice for a gluten free option), nuts, cinnamon and stevia to create a mouth-watering, healthful breakfast.

8. Roasted Chickpeas

A great savory alternative to chips, chickpeas are high in fiber, and much lower in fat, calories and sodium than most chips you’ll buy. You can buy roasted chickpeas, or you can make them! Simply drain a can of chickpeas, spread them out on a cookie sheet, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and bake at 400’F for about 25-30 minutes depending on how crunchy you want them. Delicious!

9. Mashed “No-tatoes”

Mashed cauliflower has a texture similar to potatoes. Take a whole head of cauliflower, cut it up and boil or steam it, then mash it with your favorite ingredients like chives, light mayo or a bit of butter, and any other seasonings you enjoy in traditional mashed potatoes. You can even use it in place of potatoes in another recipe such a Shepherd’s Pie!

10. Smoothie Popsicles

This last one is so simple, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it first! Blend up a smoothie with berries, bananas,  protein powder, flax, or whatever you prefer, then pour it into popsicle mold and freeze for a sweet and icy treat.

15 Benefits of Telemedicine

“Telemedicine is changing the healthcare landscape and redefining the meaning of a Doctor’s ‘Office’ visit.”

-Dr. Steve Okhravi, MD, MBA, CPE (Co-founder of DocChat)

What is Telemedicine?

According to Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary, telemedicine is “the practice of medicine when the doctor and patient are widely separated using two-way voice and visual communication (as by satellite, computer, or closed-circuit television).” But it is really so much more than a definition can encapsulate. Telemedicine essentially streamlines doctor-patient communications, patient medical records, distance medical training, and medical resource sharing effectively and conveniently. It improves many of the facets of our troubled healthcare delivery system.

A Surplus of Advantages 

  1. According to the Southeastern Telehealth Resource Center and Healthline, here are just 15 of the many benefits of telemedicine include:
  2. Allowing rural or immobile patients to stay put and still see a doctor or specialist without a long commute or hassle
  3. Allowing specialists and other healthcare professionals to communicate and connect effectively
  4. Enabling continued medical teaching from universities to students away on placements or to rural physicians
  5. Allowing patients to be diagnosed and treated much earlier than traveling to doctors or waiting for distant appointments
  6. Providing disease management to chronically ill patients, reducing repeat ER visits
  7. Providing invaluable conveniences to busy patients, like missed work, lower costs, less commuting, no childcare arrangements
  8. Saving lives and enabling informed healthcare decisions, promoting less medical errors performed in the haste of overcrowded ER environments
  9. Delivering more cost-efficient healthcare
  10. Encouraging senior wellness with preventative care, onsite monitoring and avoidance of unnecessary, dangerous trips to the ER
  11. Improving administrative effectiveness
  12. Enabling easy sharing of medical records, information, and diagnostic results between medical professionals
  13. Providing online peer discussion groups and support groups for patients with serious illnesses
  14. Allowing busy physicians to partake in medical training, webinars and updating without leaving their office
  15. Helping remote establishments and groups receive necessary care, such as penitentiaries and military bases
  16. Supplementing hospital environments by providing more effective triage and alternative care for non-critical patients

Really, Why Not?

Given the many advantages and the fact that 78% of doctors visits can be handled via telemedicine, it is puzzling why we aren’t utilizing this golden medical tool more extensively.  Wouldn’t you rather have access to a physician in the comfort of your own home instead of dragging your sick self or loved one around the city in search of care? With DocChat, this valuable resource is now available in the palm of your hard, anywhere in the country at anytime during the day or night, every day of the year.

Seasonal Depression: When Winter Brings The Blues

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as winter or seasonal depression, is a form of depression which comes in and goes out with a particular season, usually winter. According to Mental Health America, SAD is classified as a mood disorder.  One if its main causes is seasonal variation in natural light which upsets the body’s circadian rhythm.


Some of the symptoms of SAD include: persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, anxiety or moodiness, weight gain, headaches, sexual problems, social anxiety, over-sleeping, and fatigue.  Approximately 10% of SAD sufferers feel depressed in the summer and may experience some different symptoms than winter sufferers, which can include insomnia, weight loss, and loss of appetite.  WebMD states that various symptoms of SAD correlate with other types of depression as well, but one that appears unique to winter-onset SAD is a tenacious craving for heavy carbohydrates such as pastas.

The Stats

According to Everyday Health, nearly 500,000 Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. While anyone can suffer from SAD, there is a greater prevalence among women, people between the ages of 15 and 55, and people who may have a genetic predisposition for depression. The majority of those who suffer from SAD live far away from the equator, where the days shorten during winter months and exposure to sunlight is reduced.

Light Therapy

The most common form of therapy for SAD sufferers is light therapy. This includes using specialized lightboxes which contain different wavelengths of light rays to simulate sunlight. Another common type of light therapy is a dawn simulator, a special light programmed to gradually increase in intensity during morning hours, simulating the sun setting. While artificial light therapy is great for those with limited access to sunlight, one study found that during winter months, walking for an hour in the sunlight was equivalent to two and a half hours under bright artificial lights.

Other Treatment Options

Similar to other types of depression, regular exercise is recommended for people with SAD. Outdoor exercise is targeted as especially beneficial, as working out in natural sunlight will help the person two-fold. Other useful therapies include relaxation techniques, talking with a therapist, and in some cases the use of anti-depressants is necessary during the affecting season.

How SAD is Diagnosed

If you are suffering from similar symptoms discussed in this blog and are wondering if you may have SAD, it is important to visit your doctor (or speak to one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians) today so they can perform a mental health assessment to determine if you may be suffering from SAD or another form of depression.

16 Wellness Tips For 2016 — Part 2

2016 beach boost

If the first 8 tips were not enough, we’re back with more! Presenting the second half of our 16 wellness tips for 2016. If you missed the first half, you can check it out right here.


9. Fun & New

Taking up a hobby or learning a new craft will give you something to do when you’re all caught up on your favorite TV shows. Between food blogs, Pinterest, and recipe videos on YouTube, anyone can easily take up cooking or baking. Coloring books for adults have recently gained popularity for being therapeutic and nostalgic.  If that’s not your thing, beginner-level home improvement projects will give you a sense of accomplishment (and something to show your friends and family).

10. Use Your Apps

Do you ever have to pause and ask yourself, “What day is it?” Modern smart phones come standard with a calendar and alarm clock that you can even set days ahead of time. Setting an alarm with a reminder about 45 minutes before an upcoming meeting or coffee date is a great way to ensure you make it on time. The app stores have an entire category dedicated to productivity, so pick and choose the ones that apply most to your schedule!

11. Explore Your Own Backyard

Trekking across the globe is no doubt fun, but it can also be expensive and tiresome. Taking a brief 45-minute drive outside of your hometown can make for a lovely day trip, or go an hour or so further for a little weekend getaway. You may find a new favorite café or restaurant you’d like to visit again. If you live or work in a city, a sweet little hotel hidden in the forest can be refreshing.  Short trips like these are manageable and go a long way to both de-stress and satiate your wanderlust.

12. Stretch For Success

Stretching is underrated when it comes to bodily health and maintenance. Doing certain daily stretches can tone muscles and reduce pain in problem areas. According to Dr. Steve Weston of the International Chiropractors Association, “The benefits of stretching include improved circulation, increased flexibility, increased range of motion, decreased tension, increased relaxation, stress relief, and enhanced performance, function, and coordination”.

13. Create Something

Making something with your own two hands can be such a cathartic experience. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative, keep in mind that it’s about self-expression. Artistic endeavors like photography, drawing and painting are worth a try. Things like scrapbooking, photoshop or digital collage, or revamping home decor also make for great creative outlets. If you need ideas, go to Pinterest and search for “DIY” – the opportunities for creativity are boundless!

14. Boost Your Endorphins

Everyone should already know, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” But there are other ways to boost this valuable brain chemical. Physical contact including hugs, cuddling, and having sex all increase endorphin production.  Eating chocolate or even some of your favorite food can have a similar effect.

15. Shut Up & Dance

If going to the club is your thing, more power to you! (Just don’t be a wallflower.) However, you don’t need an audience to move your feet and shake your hips. From salsa to belly dancing to shuffling, put on your favorite dance music playlist and let it move you. Dancing is especially beneficial for those with joint problems who can’t endure high-impact exercise. (Plus, you may pick up a move or two to show off in the future!)

16. Get Out

Want an excuse to get out of the house? Challenge yourself with something like hiking or indoor rock climbing.  Join a club  or class that piques your interest such as basketball, wine drinking, or wheel-throwing/ceramics. Alternatively, you can find a local meet up for yoga in the park, football, play dates for your pets and children, shopping, or just about anything.