Seasonal Affective Disorder: It's not just in your head

depression mental health SAD seasonal affective disorder

Every year about, around late September/early October I feel an internal shift. It's a slight almost imperceptible shift...almost like the flick of a switch. 

It's getting darker earlier.

And I know we've hit that time of year that I DREAD.

When I was younger (late 20s) I simply thought of this as the "Winter Blues." I thought it was just a time of year that I didn't like. I grew up watching one of my Grandmother's not like winter/holidays so I thought this was just normal, though personally I've never had anything negative happen in the winter season to make me feel this way, that I know of in this lifetime.

I remember sitting and just thinking...

Why do I ALWAYS feel so stank this time of year?

Why am I so DOWN?

One day I started looking through old journals and emails (another reason you should journal) and I looked at my behaviors and the emotions I was describing over time and I started to see a pattern. I realized this indeed may not be some cute little "blues..."

This may be Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that comes on in the late fall or winter and improves in the spring and summer months (there are some instances where SAD can be reversed and onset in spring too).

  • In a given year, approximately 5% of the US population experiences seasonal depression
  • SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans, and another 10 - 20% may have mild SAD
  • Four (4) out of five (5) people who have seasonal depression are women

I know when we get to this time of year, I need to start gearing up and begin taking steps to essentially safeguard my mental well-being. 

I'm sharing this with you today, on World Mental Health Day, to hopefully provide some insight on what you (or a loved one) may be experiencing or feeling. This is something I usually keep to myself, cause people are nosey AF and judgy - but if it can help someone else today...well then, I have to put my pride to the side right?!

So here are a few tips that help me basically keep it together and not jump off a curb that I'd like to share with you.

Know your signs

Do you know your signs? Do you know the specific behaviors you should watch for within yourself? 

If you don't, I suggest spending some quiet time with yourself to reflect. Mentally check-in with yourself from time to time, we do it with friends and family - so it only make sense to also do this with yourself right?! #IJS

As a person that suffers from anxiety and depression I've learned my "signs," and I know the things to watch for, for example, I know I'm in trouble when I start sleeping for days in a row for >12 hours a day, and I'm not sick. I begin to avoid work, commitments, and don't want to do anything I normally love doing. I basically withdraw from everything. I even stop playing with my dogs (nope, no one is safe, not even the furbabies) and I adore my little buddies.

On occasion it's good to reset, but when this level of withdrawal becomes a pattern, take notice.

Keep a journal

Let me be honest, I'm not always good with keeping a daily journal; but I do like to write about how I feel when emotions rise or when situations occur. This has been SUCH an insightful practice, as it has allowed me to track month-to-month and year-to-year with what's been going on within myself from a bird's eye view. 

Journaling also helps me feel better in the moment because I can get all of my feelings out, without worrying about hurting or offending someone. If you all only knew half of what my journal knew!

Check in with someone

I know it's hard to be vulnerable (cause people ain’t shit sometimes) and it's scary to reveal your kryptonite to others. Talk to a close friend and let them know what's going on, so they can assist you. There are two (2) reasons for this - when you tell a person about your mental health needs they may be able to assist you in monitoring your signs (i.e. before the meltdown) as well as assist you if you actually need help during a dark time (i.e. during the meltdown). 

Sometimes when you're close to a situation, albeit IN the situation, you may not view it the same. Sometimes it takes that friend to point out they've noticed you haven't really been eating or they haven't seen or heard from you in over a month.

A friend can then step in and maybe bring you a meal or FaceTime you (it is still COVID after all), but if they don't know, well - they can't help.

Self-care is the BEST care

Self-care is always essential but when we talk about mental health - it's mandatory.

Keep in mind self-care looks different for everyone, but one way to ensure you can squeeze self-care in is by scheduling it on your calendar. Set up an in-home spa day, go for a walk and do light yoga - it's easy to "get busy," so make it a weekly routine.

Do whatever it is that YOU do to take care of yourself! By the way that does NOT mean eating all of the chips, ice-cream, pizza, fries, and gummy bears you want.

Perhaps that last one only applies to me...

Learn to say no

There's a fine line between withdrawing into a cave for months on end, and over committing and it's important to find the balance. Sometimes it may mean saying no, to people - and learning to be okay with it. It's okay to say no to some commitments, and let people know you simply can't handle adding another task to your schedule. Trust me, it's better to say no than to have a breakdown at the dentist's office (yup, that was me).

Meditate

Meditation has been a God/Universe-send and it has helped me SO much. I was skeptical at first too, like how is sitting still and “not thinking” going to help ME?! But it really does!

It doesn’t have to be a long session either, 10-15 mins is a great place to start. The other day I meditated for 15 mins and it was the best mood lift. I literally felt refreshed and knew I could handle the rest of my day. 

I like to use guided meditations the most and I use a few different ones.

I first started with the Calm app when I began my meditation/mindfulness journey (something I’ll talk about in more detail in another post) and I still use Calm, especially for their Sleep Stories. The My Life app is another good option to check out.

When I’m not using an app, I pop over to YouTube and follow along with favorite Healer in Heels Ms. Monica Bey. 

Again, meditation doesn’t have to be all weird and mystical and the more you do it the easier it will become.

Consider getting some professional help

I know, I know - you don't need therapy, but you really do! Consider talking to a professional for a little bit of guidance. 

There's nothing wrong with confiding to friends and family, but talking to an unbiased professional, who doesn't know you can really be cathartic. Remember a therapist, psychiatrist, psychologist (or whatever you choose) listens to people for a living, so they know what they're doing and can really help you work through the areas and issues you need to navigate.

Be kind to yourself and show yourself grace

Finally, it's okay not to be okay, periodt.

We are so hard on ourselves

We often are so quick to be kind to others, but we don't extend ourselves the same courtesy. Show yourself a little grace, if you need to cry, vent, yell - do it! Let it out (scream it from the rooftops, shout it out) - if the neighbors get mad, they will get over it. 

Let me share a secret with you - you're not the only one experiencing whatever you're going through. Everyone out here is dealing with something, whether they let you in and show you, or not (yes, including all of those celebrities you follow on social media too).

We always think we're alone in our suffering, but we're not...you're not alone in this. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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