Today I want to talk about how to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I decided to write about this because a.) I suffer from SAD and b.) it is currently the middle of winter in Australia so what better time to discuss it?
So first off…what is Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, essentially it is a type of depression that is linked to the changing of weather or seasons. Typically, the majority of people who have SAD begin to feel it in autumn and it usually lasts all throughout winter until spring arrives. Those that suffer from SAD experience this period of time in different ways. Some retreat completely, some cry for no reason and others have absolutely no motivation. I’m not going to go into the science behind this but I do want to share some of the ways I deal with the frosty and gloomy weather.
- My SAD used to be so much worse than it is now. I used to dread winter and would throw myself into a slump when it arrived. I didn’t allow the days to flow…they just dragged because I felt every cold second and gave it all of my attention. Now when winter is here, I find things to look forward to and don’t focus on every single negative aspect of the season. You need to occupy yourself or you will become engulfed by the months and time will move more slowly. Start creative projects, go on road trips, make time for friends and family. Don’t stop living or you will succumb to the gloom.
- Winter is the time to be comfortable. I love bundling myself up in blankets, wearing loose clothing and having the heater on. Summer is fun but can also be sweaty, tiring and uncomfortable, especially when it comes to sleeping. No matter how miserable it is outside, I am much more restful in the cold weather. I enjoy pampering myself with hot cups of tea, good books, warm baths, sleep-ins, watching shows in bed and hearty meals. If your SAD starts kicking in, indulge in all of the above and enjoy the relaxation.
- Stay active! I know how much harder it is to workout when its cold and for this reason you’ll have to get creative. Maybe you won’t be as motivated to go outside so find fun ways to exercise indoors. We purchased an exercise bike which has been fantastic and allows us to stay warm and fit at the same time! I like to cycle to music or reruns of my favourite shows. I also practice hot yoga which is very enticing when it’s freezing outdoors. Indoor classes, gym routines and brisk hikes/walks are popular ways to remain active in winter. Don’t forget that exercise releases endorphins which will assist in fighting your winter blues!
- Try to remember that just as the seasons pass, so too will your depression. This was something I had to keep reminding myself when I was really down. The sun will shine again, the weather will be warm again and things will improve just like your mood. If you are struggling emotionally, get a journal and write down everything you are grateful for and list all of the things in your day that are worth getting out of bed for. I would highly recommend purchasing ‘Start Where You Are: A Journal of Self-Exploration’ and allow your thoughts to flourish on paper. When winter is finally over, read your journal in the sun, sitting on the grass and reflect on how you made it through a difficult time.
- Embrace the cold. Sometimes exposing ourselves to something that usually produces negative responses in the body can be the best thing for gaining perspective. Rug up and spend the day in the snow. Find the beauty in winter as you walk through nature rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed. If you are able to find the wonderful things about the season you usually dread, it might not affect you so much when it comes around again. The ability to make the best out of a bad situation will ultimately keep you sane.
- Cuddle with a loved one, invite a bunch of friends over for a movie night or snuggle up with your pet and live in the moment with the ones you treasure. It’s so much more difficult to give affection when you’re hot and sweaty so take advantage of the fact that winter allows you to express more physical love.
- Instead of ‘Spring Cleaning’, try ‘Winter Cleaning!’ Use this time to live a more minimalistic lifestyle and rid yourself of things that no longer serve you or take up space. View your home as a place for hibernation that is going to keep you warm and comfortable during the colder seasons. Declutter your ‘cave’ and leave only the things that make you happy, relaxed and content. Throw out old blankets, towels, pillows, quilts and buy softer, warmer sets that will make you look forward to coming home and lounging around.
- Book your vacation during this period! Last year, Francis and I escaped the last month of winter by travelling to balmy Vietnam and Cambodia. If you really can’t stand the experience of winter, go somewhere that is hot and soak up the sun. It will make you feel better about returning to a colder climate and will allow you to enjoy summer for much longer in the year. If SAD affects you to the point of serious depression and misery, I would advise moving somewhere that is warm all year round! I know this is easier said than done but nothing is worth feeling so down and depressed during the year.
I hope these tips help those reading overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have found that it gets easier every year especially when I arm myself with the points listed above. Just remember that summer will return and your glorious self will bloom in the sunshine once again.
Peace & Love xoxo
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