Seasonal Affective Disorder is considered to be a type of depression associated with a lack of light that is characteristic of this time of year. It affects your mood and zaps your energy and can lead to more serious emotional and mental health suffering. Every year people are at risk and this year it is coupled with the additional, whammy of still being in the midst of a pandemic.
It is safe to say that for some, this is a really, really tough time.
It is also insidious. It can kind of sneak up on you. As the days get shorter and the skies get darker, so may your patience run shorter and your mood turn darker bit by bit. It is crucial to notice signs EARLY so that you can take action.
As a life coach I teach people to pay attention to what is happening in their lives. By paying attention, by being mindful you can minimize the effects that the weather, or any external circumstance has on your internal well being. When you know yourself, who you are, what you feel, how you feel, and where you feel it you can begin to manage it instead of being at the mercy of it. When you are aware of your feeling, you have an opportunity to do something with it.
Notice your routines. You have certain habits that you have created for everything you do in life. You have ways that you cope when you start to feel heavy, dark, and down. Do you know what they are? When people struggle with low mood they often do things that bring immediate relief but are not helpful for long term, happiness. A boost of sugar from sweets or alcohol might give a quick lift but then there is a fall again soon after. Isolating from social settings might bring a brief sense of relief but loneliness can create deep sadness and a sense of rejection.
Instead, when you notice that you are feeling a sense of sadness, or darkness create habits that will support longer lasting results. They may seem like more effort initially, but the gain is greater. Use self-talk to get you going. Tell yourself the truth. You can do it, you are worth it. This is just temporary. Don't wait until you feel motivated because you are not going to and just stay conscious and mindful of what you MUST do. Not what you should do, what you must do to improve the quality of your life. Here are some suggestions that work:
Meditate: meditation changes your state of mind. It takes you from a dark place to a place of your creation. Use visualization, use your imagination and create a state of love, light, peace and happiness. Develop your skill of concentration and mindfulness so that you are able to focus your attention where you want it to be. You can feel however you choose to feel during meditation.
Journal: write out how you are feeling. List the feeling, describe it's physical characteristics, give it a name, investigate where you think it has come from and if it has any truth to it or if it is simply part of a story you are telling yourself, be kind to the feeling, let it know it is ok that it is here, let it know that you are ready to release it, and breath into it.
Exercise: move, move, move. You might not feel much like it and it doesn't matter if you do. Move. Exercise releases endorphins and they make you feel good. Walking, biking, hiking, yoga, hula hooping, dancing, jumping, skipping, sex, whatever...move.
Stick to a sleep schedule: sleep patterns are disturbed with SAD, you may be tempted to sleep a lot more and to sleep during the day. Resist the urge. Unless you have been advised by your doctor that you require extra sleep, restrict sleeping to at night and in your bed.
Let there be light: When there is light outside get out and enjoy it. There are light boxes that are also very useful for augmenting your light intake during the dark fall and winter months. They sit on your desk or table and an hour or so while you work or watch tv gives you the boost you need.
Get help: Reach out to someone for help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I have needed to talk to someone when I was struggling at different times in my life and I am grateful for the help I received. I am here to support you if you want to talk about how to meditate, or journal or how to create happiness for yourself in your life.
You can start to make your life better today.
For more information on Signs & Symptoms, Treatment etc. here is a link for Camh: https://camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/seasonal-affective-disorder.