I have seasonal depression.
This means, from November to mid-May my emotions are all over the place.
Yes, it can be unpleasant at times. Especially when you wake up one morning and forget how to feel comfortable in your own skin. Then you question your place in the world and feelings of self doubt emerge. You feel disappointed that you let yourself succumb to these emotions– yet, it also feels out of your control.
But every spring, the sun comes out a little bit more, flowers blossom, trees grow leaves again, crisp air turns into warm breeze, and just like that– the seasonal darkness unlatches itself from your soul.
You’re happy again.
I’ve been dealing with seasonal depression since I was in middle school. At first, the symptoms were minor. I used to call it the “Christmas Blues”– a title that deemed fit for an outsider like myself.
My logic was: if everyone is jolly in this season then of course I feel the opposite.
After all, I wasn’t one to follow the crowd.
After noticing a drastic change in my mood every winter, I decided to do some research.
I marched out of my room one evening, bolted into the living room, and sat at the computer desk. I pulled up the old windows internet explorer and searched “mood swings in winter”.
“Seasonal Affective Disorder”, flashed onto the screen in large blue arial font. I realized I wasn’t the only one struggling to stay upbeat during the winter months. I eventually saw a doctor who confirmed this was a real illness.
What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons.
Symptoms can begin in the start of fall and continue into the winter months, draining your energy and making you less motivated. For few, symptoms arise in the beginning of spring to the end of summer.
If you feel depressed and unmotivated during specific seasons:
You are not alone.
In fact, it is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. Another 10 percent to 20 percent of them may have mild SAD.
However, sometimes these medical treatments can be pricey. If you’re a student like me, your opportunities to afford these treatments may be limited.
I’ve battled with SAD for years and have learned to cope with it by creating my own methods that have kept my head up all winter.
Disclaimer: I am not claiming that these will cure your SAD, but these are tips that have helped me during the winter months. I hope they do the same for you!
Five Ways To Cope with SAD
1. Get Out and Explore
Yes, I know.
Staying in bed, wrapped up in your blanket while binging on rom-coms may sound nice. But one thing I’ve learned about staying home all day for a week is:
Being unproductive will not help you feel better.
Instead, you should put in more effort to go out and explore. Step outside of your comfort zone and try some of the unique activities associated with the season. Bask in that natural light and get those legs moving.
Now this is obviously easier said than done, but I won’t sugar coat it. You’ll have to discipline yourself to get out the house and be active. If you’re already an active person, then that’s great!
However, if you’re like old me who procrastinates when it comes to going to the gym– it’s time to make a few changes.
Referring to Mayo Clinic, exercising releases feel-good endorphins which are natural brain chemicals that enhance your sense of well-being. In other words, exercising can trick your body into feeling light and happy. It is also a great distraction from the stream of thoughts that is often accompanied with SAD.
So get active! Hit the gym or maybe go on a light jog– whichever you’re most comfortable to start with. I can guarantee that working out won’t only make you feel good, but you will look good as well.
3. Eat Good Food.
“A healthy body is the foundation for a healthy mind.”
Good health starts from within.
When dealing with SAD, cooking can sometimes feel like a hassle. So you order pizza, or eat a whole bag of chips for dinner (I love chips). Although pizza and chips may taste good, the aftermath of fast food four days in a row is regret.
Changing my diet has been the most impactful change.
Feed your body with food that makes you feel energized and nurtured. Yes, pizza is convenient, but fruit can be conveniently eaten as well. It may be hard to make the change at first, but you can always start with adding more colour to your diet (fruits and vegetables, NOT candy)!
4. Speak to Someone
This one was the hardest for me.
I was raised by a single mother of six, with me being the oldest. Being independent was second nature. The mere thought of me being dependent on someone or something is hard to imagine.
But sometimes independence comes with ego.
I found myself feeling trapped in my own body. The old methods that used to work for me weren’t working anymore. It didn’t matter how much I jogged, wrote, or sang. I needed professional help.
So, my sessions with a reiki therapist began. Therapy taught me the power of meditation and self-acceptance. I was able to use tools like journalling, scripting, and praying (something I already used to do, but had difficulty doing during the time).
Moral of the story: it’s okay to ask for help.
We don’t always have the answers, and that’s okay. Sometimes God works through people to help us. Our healing can come from others too. We are made in his image– an image of love.
Love yourself enough to seek help. Be so open to love that when it comes knocking at your door you can feel its presence, an overwhelming gift: grace.
5. Remember, This Is Temporary
Seasonal depression is not your emotional state (oof you felt that didn’t you?).
You may not feel in control, but this is temporary. Focus on healing your mind and body, instead of the negative short-term emotions.
I’ve learned that curing seasonal depression, for me, is 50% switching my perspective during winter and 50% making lifestyle changes. That means, every morning when I wake up, I make a conscious decision to not let my emotions get the best of me.
Of course this is easier said than done, but reminding myself that these feelings will eventually go away keeps me hopeful. Sometimes the best way to combat depression is to not identify yourself with it.
You should Identify what you’re feeling, but avoid taking it personally. You feel depressed, but you are not depression. You are so much more.
You are light, energy, and love.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing! This year’s SAD hit me hard, but I’m grateful for having a loving support system.
all photos via Pinterest