Firstly, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is more common than you think and you are not alone. The sudden lack of sunlight, the cold mornings and the natural instinct to retreat into your space battles with what's expected of us in modern society – to get up when it's still dark, work through all of the light hours and keep the same routine all year round. This isn't natural to human nature and our instincts go against everything we're taught. Knowing this should bring you a sense of harmony – there's nothing wrong with you. You're perfect. And society has it's standards set against our natural rhythm. But there are ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder. Here's what helps me on a daily basis:
Seasonal affective disorder is due to the lack of sunlight going through our eyes and into our brains, releasing hormones that give us a zest for life. A reduction in this light leads many people into a slump of depression and anxiety and so a common remedy for SAD is artificial sunlight simulators. Of course if you can get yourself to a sunny destination this is the best remedy, but for those of us who don't have the time of funds for a holiday abroad, a light source is a perfect alternative. Set it to wake you up each morning as the sun would in the summer months and give you that feeling of a bright, crisp morning even when it's overcast.
Keeping an eye on your thoughts is so important to bringing your mind back to health. When we're run down and feeling low, it's easier for our minds to wander and fixate on depressing and bleak thoughts that can lead us down a path that only makes us feel worse. To tackle it head on, practice mindfullness and keep your thoughts from wandering into the past or future. Think of all of the things you appreciate about the present moment, focus on your breath and notice how you feel without judgement. I know it's easier said than done but with a little practice you'll be beating SAD faster and mindfullness will soon become an automatic daily routine and suffering with SAD will be less common and less overbearing.
Keeping your body in a routine is so important to coping with seasonal affective disorder. As the dark nights draw in ever closer and daylight hours are greatly reduced it's a natural temptation to sleep in and completely change your body clock. But for your mental health it's vital you stick to your regular routine – so get up when your alarm goes off, get ready for your day as you normally would and wrap up warm. Keeping your mind and body on a consistent cycle will keep your hormones level and not throw off your internet clock and confuse your body even more. Of course you should listen to your body and if your intuition is telling you to rest and repair, then sleep can be a positive option. But remember it's also good to maintain a level of normalcy in every day life.
Being with nature is a fundamental necessity and yet is becoming less and less common. We're trapped inside of our little boxes that keep the outside out and this is going against everything our minds and bodies want and need (whether you know it or not). Taking walks through a local park, breathing in the fresh air, looking over rooftops at expanses and horizons and bringing greenery and life into your space are all great ways to bring back nature into our lives and get us back to a grounded and peaceful state of mind.
If, like me, you find yourself in solitude a lot of the time, it's a good idea to keep your mind occupied whilst you go about your day with podcasts, uplifting music, audiobooks or talk radio. Having noise to feel less alone is a great way to take the pressure of seeing people (particularly if you're introverted) but giving yourself a sense of being close to others. A lot of people suffer from feeling lonely at the time of year and is a symptom of seasonal affective disorder and yet greeting the world seems too daunting to bare thinking about. So stick on a podcast or switch on the radio in the background and feel a sense of being apart of a wider conversation.
Nutrition plays a key role in how we feel both in our mind and body. Each time we eat we are feeding our body with giving it fuel to thrive. Pumping chemicals, over processed 'foods', hormones and nasties into our bodies from eating fast food, sugary sweets and meat and dairy is only going to exacerbate the feelings of tiredness, depression and anxiety. Instead, feed yourself with fresh, clean, whole foods that give your body vitality. You'll soon feel the benefits and your body will thank you.
Do you suffer from SAD? How do you cope?