It’s that time of year where the threat of Seasonal Affective Disorder hangs over us all. With the nights drawing in, worse weather, less sunshine and the promise of a long winter ahead of us, it’s easy to see why as many as one in three people suffer with SAD. As one of those three myself, I’m making a concerted effort to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder this year, and here’s how.
1. Approach the season with a positive attitude. I’m trying to shift my mindset towards autumn/winter this year, trying to be excited about the change of season rather than dwell on the negatives. I usually find the lack of sunlight and constant dreary weather in itself depressing, but instead of focusing on how it’s going to be dark when I get home from work soon, I’m trying to be excited about making the flat cosy, finding fun new ways to spend the cold evenings in with friends, and just some general excitement of the joys of autumn and winter.
Starting the Hunting For Autumn newsletter has definitely helped, it’s been a great push to really focus on all the positives this change of season will bring. I’m ready to embrace slow for the season, and I’m looking forward to nights on the sofa with a book, weekend trips to the cinema, and afternoons spent hiding from the rain in a cosy pub or two.
2. Eat well and stay hydrated. It’s perhaps a cliche to say, but my mental health is always better when I’m hydrated and eating well. My body prefers a ‘snacking’ schedule, I eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day since it’s easier on the stomach, and I find this keeps my energy levels steadier. Instead of peaking and troughing I’m able to maintain a good level of energy throughout the day, not becoming sluggish. Staying hydrated is massive for me, I usually find my water intake drops this time of year, and can be directly attributed to those afternoon headaches and brain fogs that strike. I firmly believe that nourishing your body with the right food and hydration has a massive impact on your mental health, so it’s something I’ll be working hard on this season.
3. Make plans for quality time. Making sure your diary is busy with things to look forward to is massively helpful when it comes to keeping your spirits up throughout the colder months. There’s a fine line to be found between having plans and feeling overwhelmed though, so make sure everything you’re putting in your diary is something you’re excited for! Schedule after work coffee dates, weekends exploring somewhere new, skype dates with friends further afield. Making connections + spending quality time with your loved ones is the perfect pick me up for lower mood days.
4. Don’t be afraid to say no. Having plans is great, but it’s okay to say no when it’s getting too much. Everyone’s entitled to the occasional blowing off of plans to stay home with a glass of wine in pjs, so don’t be afraid to let people know when you need a little time off.
5. Be kinder to yourself. It’s easy to beat yourself up after what you don’t get done on your to do list, or the plans you bail on, or the days where you don’t feel so great. You wouldn’t treat a pal experiencing those emotions the way you treat yourself, so I’m trying harder to practise a bit more loving kindness towards myself. It’s okay to have a down day, it’s okay to not get as much done as you’d hoped, it’s okay to take some time out for yourself.
6. Make movement a priority. I don’t always make it to the gym everyday, and that’s okay. But on the days I don’t make it to the gym, I try to make sure I’m moving some other way. Some days I prefer to spend that gym time outside, so I’ll go for a longer walk, and some days it’s as simple as a short yoga routine at home. I always feel better when I’ve made time to move, it lifts my whole mood and boosts my energy, and I try to make sure I do that once a day.
7. Explore your feelings through journalling. This is something I’ve been trying to do since coming to the end of my therapy sessions. If something comes up that I would have talked through with my therapist, I try to put pen to paper to work through those feelings myself. Often, a therapist is there to push you to explore and understand your feelings, so I try to write down how I’m feeling, and answer the questions I know my therapist would push me to answer. It’s not a foolproof method, but it does help a lot of the time, so when feelings of anxiety or sadness come up, my first port of call is my journal.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a bitch, there’s no denying it, but hopefully with these steps, we can keep it at bay!
What are your tips for fighting Seasonal Affective Disorder?