Dealing With SAD
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I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
SAD is one of those things that people kind of shrug off and say "Doesn't everyone?" or just roll their eyes at. If I am being honest? I used to be one of those people to some degree. I just assumed that everyone struggled in the Pacific Northwest Winter the way I did. But they don't.
I knew I struggled with the dark, cold, wet, and dreary of the winter season - but I didn't realize how bad it was until I spent two weeks in Arizona this fall. I'm not a desert person. Too dry, too many cactuses, too flat, but also not flat? Just not my thing. However, despite not loving the desert I found that my mind was 100% clear. I never broke down for seemingly no reason (only for very valid reasons), I could show up for my kids every single day, we didn't collapse in exhaustion at 6:30pm... it was just life. I didn't realize how much of "just life" I had been missing and how not everyone actually struggles with seasonal affective disorder like I do.
Not everyone struggles to get out of bed when it's dark outside. Not everyone cries when the sun hasn't come out in 72 hours. Not everyone hides under a blanket on the couch and lets their kids watch 3 Disney movies in a row. Not everyone needs to "wind down" once it gets dark outside - even if it's only 4pm. Not everyone moves their furniture around their house based on where the sun is coming through the window at any given moment. Not everyone feels like no-one loves them just because they haven't seen the sun in a couple of days. Not everyone hyperventilates looking at the weather report.
So what does someone like me do during a Pacific Northwest cold, dark, and dreary winter other than cry in the corner?
For me, identifying pieces of myself that can help me grow has been crucial. And 2019/2020 in particular has been a lot less guilt and a lot more intentional action to help me deal with my SAD. Taking action on this has been powerful, not just for me but for my entire family. I am able to be more present for everyone and that's never a bad thing.
Here are the things that have helped me deal with my SAD this winter:
Sometimes I pull my kiddos and hubby onto the couch and watch television snuggled up with them under a blanket from dinner until bedtime. Sometimes dinner is crackers and salami. Sometimes I sit in a chair in a single ray of sunshine and ignore my kids fighting upstairs. Sometimes I yell or breakdown and cry. But I can always get back up, I can always apologize, I can always take time to do what the kids or Mark want to do, I can always start again. And not allowing the bad moments to define my narrative means that I can release any guilt that builds up and remember that I am doing the best I can with what I have right now. Gratitude journaling can help tons with this.
It sounds shallow, but tanning regularly has very seriously changed my life. I am starting to be more and more aware of how often I need some UV light and vitamin D and warmth. Honestly? I need it every 48-72 hours minimum. If I don't take the time to go tanning, I find myself further and further under the blanket on the couch, crying, and spiraling into dark places. Visit your local salon and ask questions.
I used to have a giant light therapy light that lived in our bathroom. I gave it away when we moved to Mexico, but recently have been seriously considering getting a new one. It is proven to help with depression - seasonal or otherwise - and increase serotonin. Verilux is the company I am considering because of reviews by other SAD friends.
When you can't bring yourself to leave your house and when you do you somehow purchase all the wrong things because your mind is lost somewhere other than the grocery store, grocery delivery is another lifesaver. We have been using Amazon Fresh because it's what works for us in our area, but I think any kind of delivery system of healthy groceries is a good thing to help you stay away from crappy food that might make you ultimately feel worse instead of better.
Creating Every Day
I am not an artist who creates from darkness, so when I'm not in a good head space? I don't create things I like very often. But, I think it's important to try and create something every single day to keep in practice. My husband, Mark, is actually the person who really pushes me to do this so I remember that there is something I like to do and am good at. Creating is often writing or painting for me, but sometimes it's making a meal or doodling or creating an art project for the kids.
This is obviously recommended by every single doctor on the planet. But it can be difficult to motivate yourself to move your body when all you want to do is live permanently on your couch. We got a dog last summer and intentionally got a high maintenance dog because it would force us to get outside and walk her every day. I don't know that I would recommend that to anyone else, but it has been the best accountability so that even if I'm not doing anything else? I am getting outside to walk the dog. I'm not going to link to a puppy purchase, because that's maybe a bit extreme. But my other favorite thing is to look up instagram workouts I can do in 20-30 minutes with bands. Bands are cheap, compact to store, and create super dynamic workouts.
Call A Friend
I will admit to being the worst about this. But put it on your calendar: Friday at 4:30pm call (name of person you like here). Then your phone will remind you and you can't not do it if it's on your phone calendar. Google knows. It's watching you. So call your buddy and just chat for 5 minutes. Or, if you have spectacular friends like I do, when they say "Do you want to grab coffee?" Do it. Make the time. Nothing will help as much as being across from someone you love at a kitchy coffee shop. Nothing, except that sweet sweet genuine real sunshine...
Go on Vacation
You heard me. Being in Hawaii over Christmas was infinitely hard because we own our own business and kids don't really understand that Christmas can follow you even if you're not at your house and there were one million family responsibilities, but it also cemented our vision for 2020 as a family. Go find the sunshine, fellow SAD-ers.
Hope your winter is treating you with kindness.
Hope your winter is treating you with kindness