This time of year has hit differently for the last 6 years. It's like I spend 8-10 months of the year conquering everything I touch and then BOOM, everything seemingly falls apart. One thing that has changed is my cognizance of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and that I may be a person who has tried to unknowingly traverse through it without the right support and/or coping strategies.
Memories of loved one who have become ancestors, financial stress, anxiety about the state of the world, lack of sunlight--all these things and more can play a role in seasonal depression. It's exhausting--emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15-44. We all experience moments of sadness and anxiety but depression is considered a chronic or recurrent condition that can lasts more than two weeks at a time.SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, usually manifesting during the fall and winter when the days are colder, darker, and shorter. For those of us who are "energy-based" beings that normally are characterized as high performing, energetic, and creative people, this season offers much lower vibrations and can create a state of sluggishness. If you are a person that can relate, below are some tips I've found on how to better cope during the cold winter months where days seem to be too short, yet last entirely too long.
🌹 FIND YOUR LIGHT
Studies have shown that a lack of Vitamin D absorption during winter months can attribute to depression. We naturally get it from the sun, but when the days are cut short we may need to find new ways to get our fix. Try some or all of these things to ensure you receive adequate light:
- Phototherapy - Purchase a light box that generates at least 10,000 lux that are SAD-safe (UV filtered). Bright light stimulates cells in the retina that connect to the hypothalamus, which is the part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms. Activating that gland at a certain time every day can restore normalcy to that rhythm. It's recommended that place the light box at eye level, approximately two feet away from you. You should do this daily for at least 30 minutes upon waking up if possible.
- Midday Walk - Go outside and walk in the high noon sun for at least 30 minutes and soak in some natural light. If you're on your lunch break, instead of eating in the office (or in front of your laptop), put your favorite music on and make your search for food a daily break to look forward to.
🌹 MODIFY YOUR DIET
Whether it be through your skin, your waste, or your mood, whatever you put in your body will surely come out. How you eat can drastically change how you feel, so these are some ways you can help deter depression orally:
- Take Vitamin-D Supplements - You can find these at your local pharmacy and sometimes at your local grocery store. If not, feel free to order some online. Take the recommended dose daily while also increasing your exposure to daylight.
- Less Carbs - Depression can show up in a change of eating habits that tend to lead to a higher consumption of carbohydrates and sugars. That means less bread and less processed sugars. I love a good honey bun, but if eating my feelings will only make me feel worse than it's worth considering other options.
- Eat protein-rich foods - Some studies suggest that people with mood disorders may also have an omega-3 fatty acid deficit. You can address this by adding more salmon, mackerel, trout, flaxseed, and soybean to your diet.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables- Well that's kinda self explanatory. Eating leafy foods can increase sustainable energy 3x more than a treat made with processed sugar. Put the donut down and grab a banana.
🌹 STAY ACTIVE
Considering that some of the main symptoms of depression are lethargy and fatigue, most specialist will advise you to stay physically active. Here are some ways to boost your energy and improve your mood:
- Go to the gym - If you're anything like me, going to the gym sounds like arriving to a job that you don't get paid for. However, working out offers many benefits. If you don't want to do traditional workouts, try taking a kickboxing or aerobics class. Hell, you could even try a Peloton®️ bike routine. Not only will the exercise release mood enhancing hormones like endorphins, the results of your hard labor could lead to the release of dopamine whenever you look in the mirror.
- Dance - Music is a universal language and its only real companion is the art of dance. Take 30 minutes out of your day to dance full out to your favorite songs, preferably one by me! To make it more fun, I challenge you to belt out the lyrics while doing so. You'll feel so much better.
- HAVE SEX - YES! Sexual engagement is known to have many positive effects on the body, more specifically the brain. Not only is it a form of high-impact physical activity, your body produces a plethora of different hormones and neurochemicals. One of these is dopamine--the hormone responsible for feelings of motivation, desire, and pleasure. This can be a solo venture, group effort, or an intimate practice with your partner. Just make sure you're safe and achieve an orgasm that will literally change your life!
🌹 AVOID RECLUSIVENESS
It's so easy to just stay in the house when it's cold, dark, and wet outside. For those who suffer from SAD, this is our season to become like bears and hibernate. However, to overcome feeling low, it's advised that we maintain an active social life despite the seasonal change. These are easy ways to stay engaged:
- Socialize - Let's be clear, there is a global pandemic happening right now and unless you're following all the protocols set in place it may not be safe to be around people. If you're a Vaxhole, then create a weekly social gathering with your other vaccinated friends. Pop out a local dance party or art show. Be present and have fun with the people.
- Be Online - Break out that laptop and host a cyber happy hour or game night from your couch. Hop on Twitter and engage in celebrity debates. Follow me on BIGO to join my livestreams. Whatever allows you to interact with other humans will do great for your emotional wellness.
- Call a Friend - Take 10-20 minutes out of your day to check-in with a trusted friend or loved one. I'd say do this daily, but you don't want it to feel like an obligation or overspend your social energy. You never know when a happy memory or new joke may pop up to brighten your day.
Though these are just a few things that can help relieve the burden of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), the most effective tip I can offer is to SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. There are several medical offices that offer therapy for grief, depression, and anxiety whether you have health insurance or not. If you need help finding an online therapist, I would recommend visiting https://www.betterhelp.com to schedule an online chat, video, or phone call. It's not uncommon for those suffering from depression to rely on substances and alcohol to cope, so if you feel that you may developing an unhealthy dependency, reach out to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at https://www.samhsa.gov or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for free, confidential assistance.
I sincerely hope that this helps you on your way to a happier, healthier winter season. If you know someone else this may benefit, please pass it on by sharing to your social media or email list. If you have other helpful tips, please leave them in the comment section.
Prince Derek Doll