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Do you get sad when autumn or winter comes along? If you’re in the sunnier climates, you may barely notice or you may welcome a break from the heat. I am a child of spring and summer. The cold rain of fall where I live used to unnerve me in a way I could never explain. I thought I was the only one who didn’t like fall and detested winter. So many people I know love the seasons of pumpkin spice everything and snow, and everything about the impending winter made me irritable and cranky.
While I could enjoy the holidays, as soon as they were over, the familiar funk would return and I would feel like garbage until spring. Then I found out about SAD (seasonal affective disorder). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. ” Yep, that definitely described my blues.
SAD explained downward spiral, the sadness and depression that I felt powerless to do anything about. It also gave me hope that I could do more than hang on for dear life until spring came. Before learning about SAD, I would spend months being someone I didn’t like. After learning about SAD, I could design a life that minimized the symptoms of the blues and maximized joy. Before learning about SAD, I spent most of my time in January and February on the couch praying that spring would come early. After, I found ways to get out of the house and sometimes out of the state to make life not only bearable but exciting and fun.
Before I had children, I nearly always vacationed in February where it was sunny and warm. Those trips did wonders to ward off the seasonal blues and carry me through to spring. After the kids came and started school, the February vacations stopped. Now that they kids are older, I’ve had a few winter vacations to sunny spots again, and I love it. For those who can’t afford a winter getaway because of finances or other commitments, there are many more ways to deal with seasonal blues.
2. Vitamin D and Sam e.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. Please consult a physician before using any product to treat any medical condition. Apparently, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere tend to be deficient in that particular vitamin, and some call it sunshine in a bottle so I tried it. It helped. Then I upped the dose, and it helped more. Sam-e is a mood boosting supplement. There are other mood boosting supplements on the market that I cannot speak to because I’ve never used them. Sam-e worked for my case of the blues so I didn’t look at any other supplements.
3. Light Therapy.
A couple of years ago, I learned about light therapy and how sitting in front of a full spectrum light could help with SAD, and thanks to the greatest husband ever, I got a full spectrum light box as a Christmas gift. Some women told me they would be insulted by that, but I was delighted. To me, that meant that my husband not only believed that what I experienced was real, he was willing to do what he could to help me, and he did. I use that light box nearly every day in the winter, especially when the days of gray and dreariness seem to go on without end. I have a Carex brand light and love it. You can learn more by clicking here.
4. Yoga and meditation.
I feel like yoga and meditation work together. For me, yoga is meditation. It brings my awareness to my body and helps me focus on what will make my body, mind and spirit feel better. I’ve taken classes, but I get the most benefit from practicing in my own home first thing in the morning.
5. Get creative.
One year in October, I participated in a creativity bootcamp which boosted my spirits more than I could imagine. I didn’t finish the project I was working on but in addition to writing, I colored, sketched and painted, things I hadn’t done since I was a child. Truth be told, most of it looked pretty childish but it stretched my creative muscles and brought me great joy. I actually enjoyed the entire month because of that bootcamp. The thing about creativity is that you don’t have to be good at anything. You just have to enjoy it. I have thrown away most of the painting and drawings I’ve done, but I had fun doing them and that was the point.
Ok, I’m a writer and this is one I’ve done for a long time (please don’t mention the bins of journals in my basement to my husband), but this can be a great time to journal for just a few minutes per day. Don’t know what to write? Start with gratitude. For 30 days write down five things you’re grateful for without repeating any of them. After you write down that you’re grateful for your family and friends, you get creative, and you find yourself looking for ways to be grateful to have something to journal about. That’s a total win in my book…or journal.
7. Pick a project.
This year, I am decluttering my office. It has become such a dumping ground, but I’m playing a game with the cleanup. I am decluttering while my tea brews in the morning. My pace is currently one binder per day and I’m ok with that. The office looks better. I feel better when I walk in there and the pace is so easy I hardly notice. What could you do while your coffee or tea brews? While your shower warms up? While you set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes each morning? Try it for 30 days, and I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at your progress
I know this sounds simple, and it is, but it’s also important. Make a dedicated effort to do things that make you smile and laugh. My children love to show me YouTube Try Not To Laugh videos, especially when I lose. This year, our family is going to a comedy concert in a couple of weeks because we all got tickets for Christmas. I can hardly wait.
9. Do something for someone else.
This one might be my favorite. Doing something for someone else, especially someone in need, can change your mood and your life faster than you think. Need ideas? Bake for someone. Send a thinking of you note to a friend. Babysit for a young mother so she can have a “me” day. Send flowers to someone. Buy two bouquets and send one to yourself too. Have a movie day with your children or by yourself. The options are endless, and occasionally you change someone else’s life.
Look, I understand that depression sometimes requires medical intervention, and if you need that, by all means, do what your doctor prescribes. For those for whom the blues come and go with the seasons, I hope you have your own set of ways to cope and hopefully thrive through your more difficult seasons. If not, I hope one of these ways is new to you and helps you immensely. In any case, it is my privilege to share this information with you, and I thank you for taking the time to read it. Thanks for being you and wish you a great day.