Winter Blues...Coping With SAD
Tis’ the time of year for many things, such as a plethora of pumpkin spiced items, holiday decor, and family time. It’s also the time of year where the days get shorter and SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, rears its ugly head.
Struggling with mental health is something many people don’t feel comfortable talking about. I’m here say it is more than okay to talk about. In fact, I encourage it. We are all human. We all have minds, feelings, and responses to environments and situations. How your brain functions (or sometimes doesn’t) affects your actions and reactions. That’s why it is imperative and more healthy to talk about it aloud.
I’ve been combatting depression since my early 20s, and it’s definitely not something to take lightly. When I first encountered it, I often thought things like:
“Why can’t I just snap out of it?"
“Is there something wrong with me?”
“Is crying this much normal?”
“Where did my drive and desire go?”
All these thoughts are completely normal and if you can relate to any of the above statements, you get where I’m coming from. You feel as if you are in this foggy cloud thats comprised of a lack of ambition coupled with anti-social behavior. Friends might avoid or misunderstand you, family members may get frustrated, and co-workers may be able to sense something is a bit off. At the end of the day if you got up, put clothes on, and got out the door you are doing well.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
Let me preface my advice by saying that I am not a medical professional, so please if you are feeling depressed seek one out. For me therapists have been a fantastic resource. What I am sharing is what has worked for me and some common ideas that have worked for others. I’m always here to listen, empathize and support. You are doing better than you realize. Trust me on this! Here are a few recommendations to help you continue your self love and healing journey:
1)purchase a happy light
Last year I did this and really made a difference. I highly recommend it. I have provided a link to the one I purchased here. These lights emit benefits similar to sunlight without the harmful UV rays. I sit with it near my face for 15-30 minutes a few times a week in the winter to boost my level of happy. With it getting dark out earlier this is a great solution and fun bonus you can use your HSA money to purchase it :-)
2)Schedule things to look forward to
Seems pretty obvious but its easy to forget when we get busy doing things we are required to do all the time. Put things on your schedule that you get excited about or enjoy doing. That way when things get crazy, you have a pleasant activity on the horizon. This could be something as simple as a bubble bath or as extravagant as planning a trip to Paris; whatever gets you pumped.
3) TAKE YOUR VITAMINS
As part of my self care routine I have incorporated taking daily vitamins which vary depending on time of year and how my body is feeling. The ones that stay constant for me are a women’s multi vitamin and B-13 for energy. Last winter I used SAM- e which helped my body feel good thus improving my mood. Don’t skip out on these, they are real lifesavers.
4)Cut back on carbs
While it isn’t necessary to entirely remove them from your diet, during the holiday season you can slip into carb overload. This leaves you feeling lethargic which contributes to those bummer moments. Try snacking on fruits and veggies to help better maintain energy levels and elevate your mood.
5) Talk to a therapist
As I shared earlier for me this made all the difference. A professional’s perspective is valuable. Professional therapists are trained to assess what you are dealing with and are genuinely there to help. While it might feel more comfortable to rely on talking with friends and family when you are down in the dumps, a therapist’s perspective can be like a breath of fresh air. An important disclaimer: You need to be ready and willing to accept their help. Try to have an open mind if you haven’t tried it before. I promise you won’t regret it.
6)Focus on Hobbies
During the winter months I ramp up all the weird hobbies I have. This helps to fill up my time with activities and gives me something exterior to focus on. As a result, I feel I am less likely to go to a depressive head space. Some examples of my winter hobbies include but are not limited to:
When the weather is nasty it is the perfect time to explore that one thing you keep putting off but always wanted to try. It can be hard to get motivated when you feel down. If you break down the steps associated with the hobby into smaller chunks it seems more doable.
7)Self care, Self care, Self care
Yes, I typed this 3 times because it is that important. It can be easy to let yourself go in terms of grooming habits or mental care habits during these cold and dark months. Don’t do it! Take the time to paint your nails, do your hair, dress up and meditate. I find if I pencil it in on my calendar and slot out time then I’m more likely to actually do it. You can move it to the next day if the motivation isn’t there but at least you attempted.
Just like the seasons pass, the unpleasant feelings will too. Maintaining your mental health is beyond important. There are so many resources out there to help. Try a few out to see what works best for you so you can become the happiest and best version of yourself. We all deserve happiness and while we may experience moments of hardship we come out stronger in the end. It feels good to know you aren’t alone and that what you are experiencing is perfectly normal. You got this! Go easy on yourself and know that you are doing the best you can in that moment. <3