It often takes a good friend to show us what we can’t see for ourselves. Last month, I told a group of gals about this annoying thing that was happening to me every night. Right after dinner, in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen, putting Winnie to bed, and transitioning to evening routines with our kids, a switch would flip. My mind would get foggy, my body would be achy, and I would feel completely exhausted. Just like that. Boom. I began begging off family movie nights because I knew sitting on a couch would put me to sleep in minutes. I stopped tucking our children into bed because I couldn’t find the energy to go upstairs. I completely neglected evening emails, writing blog posts, and spending time with my husband. I just wanted to sleep. As I shared this problem with my girlfriends, a pal who happens to be a licensed counselor asked, “Have you ever heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder?” I had. She began asking questions. When did I start feeling this way? Basically around the end of Daylight Saving Time. What were my other symptoms besides exhaustion? Achiness, irritability, anxiety over looming darkness, difficulty concentrating, feeling like I was disappointing my family. What did I do to try to rally at night? Make a big ‘ol cup of coffee. (PS She didn’t like that answer).
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression related to the change in seasons. It often onsets when days begin to shorten and ends in early or late spring. Treatment can include light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication. Though I haven’t sought the latter and haven’t been diagnosed by my general practitioner, I am taking my therapist-friend Sarah’s advice and have been doing some things to make my days a little brighter in midst of the darkness.
Light: I purchased a 10,000 lux light therapy lamp just before Christmas and have been using it for 20-30 minutes in the morning. I put it about a foot from my face with eyes closed for 5 minutes, then sit it next to me for indirect light therapy while I read. Light therapy mimics sunlight which has proven positive effects on mood. I’m also trying to get outside in natural sunlight and go for walks. This is tricky when temps are low, but yesterday, Winnie and I bundled up and hiked our back trails for about 45 minutes. Lastly, I didn’t plan it at the time, but am so grateful I scheduled a trip to Bluffton, SC to visit my sister-in-law this weekend. I can’t wait for sun and warmer weather.
Color: Beating the winter blues may be more about overcoming the winter grays. Instead of choosing all the neutrals in my closet, I’ve been grabbing more colorful options. On Monday, I wore a bright yellow wool skirt to the office and felt better all day. I’m also trying to add color into my home as Sarah suggested. Fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s only set me back around $5 and are a lovely addition to my kitchen counter.
Input: This winter has me wanting all the carbs, but that is doing nothing for my body or state of mind. I’m trying instead to make smart food choices while still inviting warmth into my life. It’s a good thing my kids love soup, ’cause it’s what’s for dinner about 4 nights a week. I’ve also subbed out the evening coffee for tea or hot lemon water, and am trying to cut out the television and instead curl up with a good book or my guy at the end of the night. I’m reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver right now and planning my springtime garden.
Output: Exercise has been embarrassingly hard this winter. I am at the gym about 3 days a week (mainly for childcare—don’t tell!), and sometimes it is everything I can do to jump on the elliptical for 30 minutes. Weight training is thrown out as are aerobic classes during this season. I just don’t have the energy. But I did do a Vinyasa yoga class on Sunday and it felt SO good. So more of that this winter for sure, as well as those woods walks I was telling you about.
Whether my exhaustion is from the winter blues or a true case of SAD is less important to me than what I’m doing to combat it. The best thing I can offer myself when the nightly exhaustion sets in is kindness, giving gentle reminders that this too shall pass.
///Does some form of the winter blues have you in a funk right now? I’d love to hear the steps you’re taking. Share your comments or resources below!///