If you are reading this then congratulations are in order. You have made it through the darkest night of the year, winter solstice. It's all uphill from here. In terms of light, anyway.
The diminishing light of autumn into the holiday season is difficult for many people, whether or not they have an official diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I know I notice it. More than Christmas, more than New Years, the winter solstice is turning point for me. I know I can handle the impending cold of deep winter if I know, somewhere in my head, that each day there is more and more sunlight. Spring and summer is on the way.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or "SAD," is a mood disorder where people with otherwise normal mental health experience depressive symptoms during the winter months, and it's believed to be related to the relative amount of daylight (less) during the winter months, among other possible triggers. The symptoms typically start to resolve in the spring into summer months, months when there is more relative daylight. People who live in northern geographic regions seem to be more prone to it than people equatorial areas.
I personally dread the time change in November. I sometimes look to the weeks between Halloween and the winter solstice as something to endure, something to get through, with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and all they entail as mere distraction from the early darkness. While I still find bits and pieces of the time to enjoy, it's just that - bits and pieces - and not the time as a whole. I just feel a lot more "blah."
simple ways to combat the winter blues
The intensity of depressive symptoms varies widely among people with seasonal mood issues, and a professional consult on the issue almost always helps get some perspective. It's nothing to hide or be embarrassed about. More people experience winter blues than you might think!
That said, there are some general things you can do to help yourself get through the dark (literally) time:
- Eat well and get all your nutrients.
Be conscious of your diet. Make sure you are eating a balance of proteins and fresh fruits and vegetables. In consultation with medical professionals, you can look into particular dietary supplements that may help.
- Get plenty of rest - but not too much.
Sleeping too much can be a depressive symptom in itself, but sufficient rest is important.
- Get exercise.
Exercise does wonders for the energy level - not to mention those lovely endorphins.
- Be careful about alcohol consumption.
Alcohol can exacerbate symptoms.
- Take advantage of the sun when it is out.
Even on the coldest days, if the sun is out, get outside and be in it. Bundle up as much as you have to, just be among the light. More serious cases of SAD can require light therapy: time spent with light box that mimics sunlight.
- Stay engaged in the world.
Keep going to your book group and other gatherings. Being among other people can boost your mood.
Looking at that list, those are things that are good ideas for everyone, not just those dealing with winter mood variations. Something to consider, perhaps?
Whether or not you have winter blues, the winter solstice is a turning point. It's an astronomical event, not just a pagan one. For me, it's very much worth celebrating.