The holidays are fast upon us and will come and go in a flash. The twinkling lights will likely stick around well past the new year, but does your inner light feel as if it begins to dim as the winter carries on? You’re not the only one. You are not imagining things, just like you don’t imagine the pain in your knees right before a rainstorm. Much like how the weather can affect our joints, the seasons can affect our mental health.
Many people are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the colder, darker days of winter — especially those that live farther north and south of the equator. It can begin to provoke you to exhibit symptoms as early as when the leaves start to change in the fall and last until the very end of the spring. Studies have shown that women are more prone to SAD than men, but the studies have been inconclusive as to why.
One thing that is for certain, is there are many ways to combat the effects and symptoms of SAD. Practicing self-care and being self aware of our own needs during those dark months will aid in in keeping your sanity. The following are a few ways to draw yourself up and out of bed on the days that it feels the hardest.
Turn On the Light
If you can’t get vitamin D from natural exposure to sunlight, aim for the next best thing: a sun lamp. Light therapy boxes simulate the sun and provide you with its benefits. The bulbs used in light therapy boxes utilize bulbs that emit a different wavelength and brightness than a regular household bulb.
According to research done at the University of Michigan Depression Center in Ann Arbor, people who have used these boxes found them to be most helpful when used for 30 minutes in the morning upon waking. It helps mimic the natural daylight cycles that you experience during warmer months — producing melatonin that can also assist in you getting a good night’s rest.
If you are having trouble sleeping, you may also find a dawn simulator helpful in helping you to wake up. A dawn simulator acts like an alarm clock but instead of making noise, it gradually shines light in your bedroom until it reaches an intensity resembling the sun. This has been seen to be more effective in those with mild cases of SAD.
Talking about how you are feeling with a close friend or family member may help to take some of the weight off of your shoulders. It may provide some relief to acknowledge that you are feeling unlike yourself and that something is different. Talking through our feelings helps us to better understand them and gain further insight into how to solve some of our own issues.
If you feel that you need to speak to someone professionally, seek out a counselor or therapist in which you can confide. Trained professionals can offer further advice on how to better manage depression that is seasonal in nature. They may recommend a short term dosage of antidepressants to help get you through the short, dark days until the sun comes back into your life. For some, it helps to make life more manageable when they feel beaten down by depressing thoughts.
Remember to Enjoy Life
When you are feeling really down in the dumps it is easy to fall into a downward spiral. If you know that you are prone to depression in the colder months, be proactive in the summer months and make a list of things that help to remind you of activities that you enjoy doing. Hang the list somewhere that is visible so that it can serve as a reminder for the days you have enough energy to attempt to these activities. Some of those activities may include:
- Making a nice meal and enjoying it with someone you adore.
- Taking a long, hot bath with candles and essential oils.
- Drawing a scene of your favorite landscape from memory or with use of a photo.
- Going for a stroll outside and looking for wildlife.
- Calling a friend to discuss the plot twists of your favorite show.
- Partaking in a class or course in a topic of interest.
- Signing up for a workshop to have something to look forward to.
The thing about depression is that we never know when it is going to rear its nasty head. We can try with all of our might to prevent it from happening but sometimes it may be best to embrace it and just stay in bed — warm, safe and cozy. Turn inwards and do what is best to hold your heart in a comfortable space while managing efforts to ward off the dark thoughts. As we move past the holidays, keep looking for the twinkling light of spring.
Photo is pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and the outdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics.
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