While talking to a close friend, she shared with me that one of her earliest memories from childhood was a feeling of melancholy, and sometimes even deep sadness, when the clocks would be turned back and the hours of daylight would become shorter. She said she didn’t know how to define or explain those feelings then, but the reaction to the change of the clocks continued and became more difficult to tolerate as she got older. Even as the other members of her family were enjoying the holidays…she couldn’t understand why that time of year was never happy for her.
Now in adulthood, she has figured out the problem and obtained an official diagnosis from her doctor. The diagnosis is “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).” All that melancholy and deep sadness from her past makes more sense now! Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern. It generally comes on around the fall when there is less light in a day and usually ends by March or April when the days get longer. Symptoms can include feelings of hopelessness, deep sadness, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. A visit to the doctor is recommended.
There are many ways to combat SAD. Here are some of our favorites…
Get a dose of nature
Studies have shown that even short walks in nature can improve your mood. If you can make this a goal every day and go out during daylight hours (even if the sun’s about to set), your mental health will thank you.
Invest in a light box
The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends 30 minutes of daily exposure to a light therapy box. These come in all shapes and sizes and price ranges, so it’s feasible to have them all over your home. They can be as small as a cell phone or as large as a floor lamp. You can choose what works best for you. You may even be able to get reimbursement through your insurance plan.
Stay social, but respect your own limits
Someone feeling the darkness of seasonal depression may not want to get up, get dressed and brave the cold to go interact with people, but withdrawing may make things worse. You know yourself best! If it takes some extra effort to brave the outside world, it will probably be worth it and will most likely make you feel better. Obviously, serious depression cannot be overcome just by “getting out of the house.” You have to make this call for yourself.
Be kind to yourself. Make time for yourself. Keep yourself warm and cozy. Make sure you have the proper gear for going outside. When you know you’re going to be warm, you’re more likely to get out there and brave the elements. Feeling good indoors is also very important! Make sure you have blankets you love, just the right socks, an essential oil diffuser (if that’s your thing) and any warm beverages that give you a sense of comfort. Having these things will help you focus on the warmth and coziness of winter instead of the cold and darkness that can bring up feelings of sadness.
Make a perfect bath
If you love baths, now is the perfect time to pull together the accessories you need to make yourself feel better. Baths are warm and soothing and can help you relax and feel cared for. Scented Epsom salts can help improve your mood…I can’t tell you how wonderful Dr. Teal’s Pink Himalayan Mineral Soak smells. You will never want to leave the tub! There are many other scents that can lift your mood as well. Choose your favorite, put on some music you love, and soak up the healing vibes.