Confession: I struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Every year in the fall when days get shorter and drearier, I start noticing subtle shifts in my mood and energy. I feel more tired than usual and a little irritable. At first, it’s difficult to discern whether it's just hormones or stress, since both can impact me similarly. Once the symptoms stretch beyond a week or so and become increasingly difficult to manage, it's clear SAD is settling in for a long winter.
For years, my SAD symptoms have resulted in a vicious cycle of unhealthy behaviors. With my energy zapped, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning and there are many times when I oversleep. I start skipping breakfast and don’t bother packing a lunch. Hungry and exhausted after work, I’m more likely to pick up fast food or takeout on the way home. If I do cook, it's usually something super quick and easy or I just snack all night and never really eat a meal. To make matters worse, I usually feel too physically and mentally exhausted to do much, so I end up in front of the computer all night, watching TV shows or mindlessly scrolling through my news feed. I go to bed early and the cycle starts all over again in the morning.
If this went on for a week or two, it wouldn't be the end of the world; but this can go on for months.
By the time March rolls around, I've gained weight and the junk I've been eating all winter has left me feeling bloated, tired, and depressed. A sense of hopelessness permeates my existence: my life has no purpose and I have nothing to look forward to. It’s especially difficult to break free of this cycle when I’m feeling so desperate.
Since I struggle with this every year, I feel like I should be able to anticipate it, prepare for it, or prevent it somehow. It has a way of sneaking up on me though, and before I know it, I'm in the thick of it. This year is no exception.
The good news? I've been bolstering my self-care toolbox and feel better equipped to cope with my symptoms this year. I may need a gentle reminder now and then though, so here's a quick list of things I know will help:
- Eating healthier: Any energy I expend preparing healthy meals and snacks is returned to me in abundance.
- Getting outside during daylight hours: Even if it's only for a few minutes, it reenergizes me and is critical to my overall sense of wellbeing.
- Doing one small thing: A good midday stretch, a few cleansing breaths, or a couple of minutes writing in my journal can make a big difference in shifting my energy and refilling my well.
- For other ideas: I'd recommend visiting Jennifer Belthoff's blog where she offers a list of 10 ways to brave the winter blues. She even has the #bravingtheblues hashtag you can follow on Instagram.
In the next few months, the blog will be heavily focused on self-care. I'll be writing about my journey and inviting guest bloggers to share their best tips and tricks for battling the winter blues. I'm also planning a few giveaways, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you don't miss out!
What do you do to take care of yourself during the winter months? Share in the comments section below or send me an e-mail. I'd love to hear from you.