Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. Everything mentioned below is my personal opinion based on my personal experiences and is meant to serve as inspiration only not professional advice. This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links.
Four simple ways to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder, live life and do what you love.
Winter. Bright white snow, trendy coats, and cozy nights in binging our favorite Netflix shows. Right?
Well, whether you welcome the wintertime with a white Christmas or are out and about in 75-degree weather with the sun in your eyes... for some, the winter blues hit the same.
See, the winter can be a non-exciting time and really 3 whole months of the year that we sometimes some of us would just like to skip... especially if we are aware as to why.
In previous posts, we have touched on making our mental health a priority and it is a bit over the midway point of the winter I wanted to bring up the subject many people deal with and that is Seasonal Affective Disorder or (SAD) for short.
This blog is dedicated to creatives who want to live a happy, healthy, and productive life doing what truly lights them up inside.
When one is amid dealing with any time of low or high functioning anxiety or depressive disorder, it kind of becomes impossible—no matter how much one might try to just keep moving forward.
Truthfully, it's been a few years since I came to terms with SAD and its been a rocky relationship ever since. Some years have been really sad and unproductive.
Other years, I have leaned into it and really focused on making it the best winter ever! -__-
This year… it's been a mix.
On the bright side, there are a few things that I tried that have really worked for me and I thought to share in case it can help you or anyone you know to find your own personal formula to wave SAD and the winter blues goodbye.
But first, what even is Seasonal Affective Disorder anyway?
According to Psychology Today,
"(SAD) is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year. This condition is sometimes called the "winter blues," because the most common seasonal pattern is for depressive episodes to appear in the fall or winter and remit in the spring. Less commonly, SAD occurs as a summer depression, typically beginning in the late spring or early summer and remitting in the fall. SAD may be related to changes in the amount of daylight a person receives."
Although it is most common to occur in the winter due to the lack of sunlight, it can really happen at any time during the year.
Los Angeles... it's always sunny so no, I do not credit my personal situation to the lack of sun/Vitamin D in winter, but there is just something about the winter and it is the post-holiday season that always hits me.
For some of us maybe we make the connection of certain life events that happened in a specific season, and they just resurface every year around the same timeframe.
Regardless of what season, here are some common systems to look out for according to Mayo Clinic:
Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
Having low energy
Having problems with sleeping
Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
Feeling sluggish or agitated
Having difficulty concentrating
Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
As you can probably tell by these symptoms, SAD or any other mental illness really isn't something to take lightly and requires some type of mild or more type of action.
Below are four simple habits that have helped me combat the winter blues and hopefully they can help you too and ensure that you are the healthiest version of yourself to keep on seeking your light and doing what you love!
1. Getting Outside
Yes, I know we have already talked about it before and how important it is, especially when you are working from home and literally days can go by and we haven't stepped outside.
But guess what? It really is that important. Guess what else?
The earlier, the better.
January and the new year’s vibes of being more active were the starting point. Yet, slowly but surely realizing the wonders that early morning walks were doing for my mental health was what truly changed the game.
For one thing, it gets you out of bed and active first thing in the morning before you even have a chance to start wallowing.
Second, it gets you active minus the pressure of making sure you get a "good" workout in. The reality of it is, that it's really hard to get your sweat on when you're walking and you can see your breath in the air because it's that cold.
Finally, it's a good chance to clear your head if you are doing it solo or to spend some quality time with someone if you are going with a buddy or significant other.
Because it's early, there are fewer people out on the road and on the course, you are productive without the pressure that can sometimes come with productivity, and hey, maybe you can go get a coffee after and come home ready and mentally clear to start your day.
2. Working Out
So continuing with this theme getting out of your head and your thoughts by being physically active... exercising is essential.
Whether it's hitting the gym, doing an at-home workout, going to a Zumba class, or anything else that's really going to get your heart pumping, your muscles moving, and sweat running down your face, just do it. Pun totally intended!
Staying hydrated, moving our bodies, and eating healthy are things we hear over and over but it's because they really are important for our health.
Not just our physical health though, our mental health highly benefits as well.
As simply put by Sarah Gingell Ph.D. for Psychology Today, "The simple act of focusing on exercise can give us a break from current concerns and damaging self-talk."
That's right, distracting our minds by doing something that forces us to stay focused on the present rather than getting lost in our overthinking thoughts.
Additionally, working out helps our brains produce endorphins which are known to be "happy hormones" and helps us elevate our mood for a more positive attitude as a whole.
Bonus, exercising leads to a stronger body and therefore a healthy increase in self-confidence, so yea... seems a like a win-win situation for sure.
3. Reading More
Yup. Super simple and highly effective.
Personally, I have always loved reading. I mean I have had a library card since elementary so...
I don't know about you, but I love that feeling of getting lost in a story for hours on end and only coming up from that book to eat, go to school/work, or to just take a tiny break. There's something addicting about it and how it can make everything else go away, especially things you may not really want to deal with.
Although, as time passes and we grow up and there's an increase in responsibility and our to-do list seems to get longer, we may find ourselves not having the same amount of time to read.
Then—2020 hit. And 2021 energy collectively hasn't been drastically different.
It was what inspired me to make reading regularly a habit again and taking the time to do so a priority.
Well, it's been a game-changer for sure.
See, it's yet another thing that forces my brain to focus on the task at hand (notice the theme we got going on?).
Not on work, not on my to-do list, not on the laundry I have to get to later, and my favorite... not what everyone else is doing on Instagram. During that time, all I am responsible for is being fully immersed in my book and getting the most that I can out of it.
Whether it's nonfiction, fiction, sci-fi, memoirs, devotionals, whatever YOU most enjoy and makes you happy to invest your time and energy into—read it.
I promise you will see the difference it truly makes.
4. Speaking Up
Last but most definitely not least... don't deal with it alone.
If there is only one thing that you take from this post let it be this right here: seek support. Seasonal Affective Disorder is nothing to be ashamed of.
One of the most detrimental things that we can do, is do nothing.
So, if you need to, reach out to someone whom you can trust and let them know, "Hey, the time of year where I am most sensitive to SAD is coming up. Maybe if I am starting to feel a certain way I can reach out and we can talk?"
I can tell you know if you trust this person, if this person loves you and wishes nothing but the best for you, there's a 99% that they would love to be there for you and support you.
Now, if you don't really feel comfortable reaching out to anyone or are just not ready... why not consider reaching out to a professional?
The message here is to not bottle it in. To not withdrawal and just hope that it goes away. It doesn't.
You have to take action, face it, and overcome it.
In a nutshell...
Don't be ashamed, there are a lot more people than you may think to deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Therefore, don't run, face it head-on.
Get out of bed, get outside, get active and out of your head.
Sweat it out with a workout, enjoy the happy hormones, and the inner strength as a bonus.
Lose yourself in your favorite book. Forget about the negative thoughts and replace them with a story you can't put down!
Don't go through it alone. Speak up and seek the support you need.
SAD affects a lot of us all around the world. Just remember that like any other obstacle, it's only an opportunity to show up for yourself and show the world but most of all... your negative thoughts and ego what you are truly made of.
You've got this.
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“There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.”
Yasmin Vasquez is the founder and creative director of Golden Light Startup. Her mission is to empower others to always seek their passions live with purpose.