Perhaps you gathered from my frequent references in the last, like, six weeks of posts, but I can get a bit down when I don’t get enough daylight. I dread Daylight Savings like a beotch.
I have absolutely diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affective Disorder (but… seriously, don’t diagnose yourself. It’s always a bad call. Do as I say, not as I do, mmkay?)
Winter never really got me down until I started getting trapped inside for the sun’s entire cycle. Then it hit me HARD.
The last two years were especially tough. Two years ago, I had a lot of other tough stuff going on at the same time, and that really shot my ability to deal with lack of daylight. Last year things were a lot better in my life overall, but it was my first fall in this job and just due to my job description and office layout, I am sitting inside (without windows!!!) at a desk almost all day everyday so I see the sun even less than at my last job. PLUS we had a certain newly adopted pupster at the same time who was tormenting me and my cat before we learned how to train him…
Anyhow. Seasonal Affective Disorder can really affect people! This year I did some serious introspection and planning so that I could try to get through it and still feel like myself. For me, the tough time always starts with Daylight Savings, so it’s been well over a month. These surprisingly simple tactics are working for me, so I’m here to share and I reaaaaaally hope they can work for you!
Oh yeah, but FIRST: in case anybody doesn’t know what I’m talking about but for some miraculous reason stuck around this long 😉 Seasonal Affective Disorder is basically seasonal depression that almost always occurs with the changes in weather and daylight in the fall and ends come spring. I may call it “winter blues” to be cutesy, but it can be just as serious as non-seasonal depression. I’ll spare you a long description, because there’s no way I could describe it as well as this Mayo Clinic explanation, and I love their list of symptoms. Obviously, you might just suffer from typical depression symptoms, but there are different symptoms that those with fall/winter SAD may experience, AND it’s totally possible to have it in the spring and summer, so there’s a separate set of symptoms for those. Seriously. Read that list. It will take you three minutes and it’s really interesting.
ALRIGHT, ON THAT NOTE!
10 ways to combat seasonal affective disorder
1. Don’t minimize it.
THIS IS BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WANT TO SAY TO YOU GUYS. Maybe you feel silly, lazy, unmotivated, or ashamed that you can experience extreme changes just because of the season. It’s understandable, and I’m sure plenty of us feel that way. But DO NOT BE ASHAMED. If it really affects you, take it seriously. Get help if you think there’s any chance you need it. Your mental health is not a joke, it’s not something to be ashamed of, and it’s not something to make light of.
I’ve reached the point where I know how severely the loss in daylight affects me, and I’m in a good place in my life that I’m able to handle it. But I take it seriously! I joke about here and there, talk about buying myself Daylight Savings consolation presents, and the like. But I give it that much attention because it has an extreme impact on my daily life and my mental health, and I didn’t take it seriously in the past and paid the price for it. Hindsight is 20-20, y’all.
It is OKAY if changes in seasons, weather, or daylight have a huge impact on you. It is OKAY to take them seriously. It is OKAY to do whatever you need to restore your mental health.
ALRIGHT, now that we’re done with our super serious and most important way to combat SAD, let’s talk about some easier, do-at-home, and fun things you can do.
UGH, why is this the answer to everything? AMIRIGHT?
Um, it’s because exercise is miraculous.
SPEAKING OF MIRACULOUS, yeah. Meditate. For reals.
4. Buy yourself a consolation present!
I now buy myself a Daylight Savings consolation present every year. It sounds silly, but it absolutely helps. Take something you’re not even remotely looking forward to and give yourself a reason to look forward to it!
5. Make fun plans or a bucket list.
Same theory – give yourself as many reasons to look forward to the months that bring you down as possible. Obviously, holidays can be fun to look forward to. But they can also be stressful, right? Picking presents, spending money, dealing with conflicting family schedules… it can be a pain.
So what I’m talking about here are tiny little random things that will turn your average day into a more exciting event! Host friends for dinner. Block out a Saturday on your calendar to have a movie marathon in your PJs.
I’ve got a winter bucket list going up next week! There are a few big ticket items on there, but also tiny little joyful things like testing some new warm cocktails! That takes ten minutes and I can do it anytime! Well… y’know… after work and all 😉
6. Write gratitude lists.
As often as you can. Maybe do a tiny one everyday! Maybe doing a weekly list! Or just save this for the moments when you’re feeling particularly down.
Perspective changes everything.
7. Celebrate what you LOVE about this season.
Even if you completely hate winter (or whatever season gets you down), there HAS to be something you love about it. Maybe it’s snow. Or blankets. Or hell, just warm drinks. Or cute slippers or socks! Write down absolutely everything you can think of that you actually enjoy about the season and REVEL in those things. Love getting to wear scarves everyday? Make picking out a scarf everyday an event!
8. Eat well.
Okay, this is the least fun item on the list. But it’s important not to resort to comfort food all day everyday. Even if it feels good in the moment, it will only bring you down. And I mean this in a couple ways – physiologically AND of course just by making you feel less healthy. You don’t need to feel bad about yourself when you’re already feeling down. So even though it’s not always fun and might be extra difficult this time of year, make sure you drink enough water, get some veggies, and don’t go totally HAM on the comfort food and treats this time of year.
9. But give yourself your favorite seasonal treats!
Uh, DER I’m going to give you the “find a good balance” shpeel. If you’re one of those people who can’t do moderation, then unfortunately it’s probably best for your mental health if you keep healthy eating in mind. IF you’re the type of person who can totally have a tiny bit of a treat here and there, this is for you: GIVE YOURSELF TREATS! Part of the holiday fun is the extra desserts at a bunch of get-togethers, the homemade bread from your family, the candy in your stocking, and the boozy cocktails your mom makes on Christmas morning 😉 ENJOY THEM! Do not restrict yourself from enjoying little treats. Use them the same way you’d treat a little consolation present, a bucket list, or the things you love about the season – an uplifting moment to appreciate, even in an overall less uplifting time for you.
10. Prioritize your mental health.
I hope I can articulate this properly. Because OF COURSE this whole post is about your mental health. But for those of us who are planners, a list like this can be just as damaging as helpful. I don’t want to do that to y’all! Don’t tell yourself to try all this if it’s not working for you! Don’t stress yourself out trying to workout 6 days a week if that causes you MORE stress than the exercise helps with! Don’t freak out if you allow yourself way more holiday treats than you intended.
You know what I mean?
The most important part of any mental health issue is exploring what works for you. So here’s a list of things that you can try, take inspiration from, and keep in mind when you’re trying to figure out how you can turn a difficult season into something you can maybe even enjoy! You do you. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, and it sure doesn’t matter what a blog post says. Give these a shot if you think they’ll help you, and I REALLY hope that they do.