Every year, when the trees start to wither and the days shorten, I and many others experience this thing called seasonal depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). Lethargy creeps into your bones and even the longest bouts of sleep can’t seem to combat your tiredness. The desire for social contact dries up and lack of self-esteem takes its place. You can feel hopeless and even sometimes despair. The spiral takes hold, and you spin and spin and spin.
SAD is not just a passing emotion. It hits both the young and old and whips back around every year to loom large in the lives of the more than 10 million Americans who are impacted by this condition. I have been locked in its grasp many times, but have also found ways to wrestle with it, tame it and increasingly conquer it. Here’s my top list of 5.
- Let’s start with light. More studies are showing that the transition from bright and sunny to dark and cloudy is impacting our brains at an anatomical level. Step one, for those of us who can’t get a SAD lamp (yes, they exist) is to therefore just step outside in the daytime. Even when you don’t want to, fresh air and a dose of Vitamin D could be exactly what you need.
- Cold showers in the morning give you adrenaline and are guaranteed to wake you up. Also, just getting into ice-cold water requires such an immense amount of will that you already feel you’ve accomplished something quite remarkable. I start the day and already feel I’ve won. It is also a proven way to combat depression. Read more about it here: https://uclahealth.org/news/6-cold-shower-benefits-consider”(UCLAhealth
- Thankfulness. Every night, I write three things I am thankful for. It gives me a new appreciation for others, but also for myself. It allows me to think through things that I’ve either not considered or to simply see them in a new light.
- Spend time with people, even if every ounce of your being is screaming ‘no’. It can be easy to hide away and the spiral then really locks in. When I’m being negative, it pushes people away and also pulls them down with me and yet what I need most is to lift them so they can lift me too.
- Finally, cut back on social media. The ‘perfect’ existence others are presenting to the world can bore into your head. Before you decide not to do this, hear me out. This was the most challenging goal for me to achieve, but there are many apps you can try out to have a healthier experience with screen time. The first few days were hard, but it wasn’t long before, I reframed my relationship with all of it. Instead of living in the ether, I started to prefer real life.
All of these things have helped me tame the SAD beast, but also more than that. Rather than just ‘getting by’, these small steps have made me feel more like myself than I have in a long time. Conquering SADness allows you to reclaim the relationship with yourself and others. There is light!