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Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder - SAD

"Hello Darkness my old friend.."

This seems to be the refrain in my head these days. Darkness all around with no end in sight. So it feels anyway. The days seem to spend their time in the dark. Daylight shows up briefly and then "poof" – it's gone like that. Makes me feel reflective and a little sad.

Sound familiar?

Not sure you experience the same thing, but winter time always seems to get me down. I feel sleepy, wanting to bury myself in blankets and barely move from bed. I want to close off the world and just let the darkness do its thing. I get the whole "hibernation" thing for sure. In fact, animals are brilliant in this regard. It's cold. The daylight is less. Why not bury myself deep in a cave and sleep for a few months.

Absolutely brilliant.

Sadly until they pass national hibernation legislation, I am stuck relating to the world. Sometime back, this winter-like state I describe did get a designation of sorts. Something called Seasonal Affective Disorder or "S.A.D."

This does not sound as good as Hibernation for sure.

For many years I've worked against this designation, feeling somehow it's a judgement on my coping skills. So what if the days seem a little shorter. So what if it gets dark at 5pm. So what of you feel like watching endless episodes of Friends alternatively laughing and then crying at all the touching moments for no reason whatsoever. Push through it and get your act together! You don't have time for all this depression. Get it together!

Unfortunately this assertive voice in my head just makes it worse. I feel judged, as if these feelings are in the way. The crazy holiday activity adds to this challenge. I don't feel festive or bouncy. The thought of shopping at the mall makes me want to build a bunker in my basement and never come out. All of this deepens my depression and soon I wonder when it will end. There are days when reading through emails feels like a great victory.

In the meantime I need to go to work and be productive and all the rest. To work with these feelings though, I focus on a few things to help the S.A.D be slightly more manageable.

  • I make sure to get out in the sunlight when it appears.
  • I make my “to do” list a little shorter so at least I feel something gets done each day.
  • I remember to take my basic supplements, my Omega-3's, Vitamin D and such.
  • I exercise a little each day, even if it is a short walk around the block.
  • I make sure I laugh a few times a day, even if I just offer a smile to someone.
  • Oh yea – most important – be kind to myself.

This might strike you as a low tech list, but it works for me. I find that little changes I can make shifts the energy of the day. The kindness part helps too. I remind myself that in the end my day might be less productive than planned, but it's alright. Awareness that the time of year affects me is crucial. I give myself a break and some real tools to support me feeling better.

(In an upcoming post we plan to explore S.A.D. in more detail with some extra tips and suggestions)

Still this notion of hibernation keeps coming back to me. Why is this something common in nature and not in human life? In the natural world things go dormant, recede into themselves, only to reappear later on refreshed and vibrant. There appears to be wisdom in this process. Having permission to withdraw and collect my energy seems a sane and healthy idea. Perhaps my personal GDP will take a hit, but isn't that alright in the long run? Would some vibrancy after a couple months of rest help me flourish in the coming year?

This makes me think about what it means to be productive. How do I push myself? What do I set for myself as a successful year? At the end of the year when I look back, what are my criteria for judging this? Generally my criteria tends to be "doing" based. What did I accomplish? What did I get done? How much money did I save?

Rarely do I ask how I "became" more of something in the year. Did I become more compassionate? Did I become more patient? Did I become more forgiving? What a notion, to strive for these things. Given the natural reflective energy of this time of year, now could serve as a great time to really explore these achievements. Reflection is good here because these things do not show up on a spread sheet somewhere. They do not have a number in the bank. They require contemplation, to see how they took hold in my being.

They do have dividends though. If I build these qualities in myself, they give back in amazing ways. They provide stronger relationships and honest exchanges. They provide laughter and give joy back into the world. They help me be calmer and let go of all the guilt and shame. Novel idea I know. Less guilt and shame. Probably the best gift I can get for Christmas, or any time for that matter.

So in all the bustle of the end of year: the presents, tree lighting, massive feasts, football games, family visits, family arguments, inebriated festivities, late night revelry, year end sales and snowball fights – I encourage something else. A little time to reflect how your “becoming” went this year. Did you lead with kindness and with gratitude? Did you support someone else in a challenging time, giving your time and compassion? Did you make someone laugh, transforming their grumpy mood?

Small things, but so important.

This holiday season the team at Organic MD wishes you joy and a happy heart the next few days. If the short day gloom creeps in, know that you are not alone. You have backup. Our plan is to continue being right here, staying curious and advocating for your wellness. We toast you in your excellence.

As always – To Your Health.

Image courtesy of canstockphoto: caravan

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