With the dark days upon us and the shortest day of the year approaching, if you’re like me, you’re starting to feel the “winter blues” or Seasonal Affective Disorder (the acronym “SAD” aptly explains the negative effects of lack of daylight). Heap on all the extra work and expectations this time of year brings along with any difficult feelings of loss many of us struggle with, and you have all the ingredients for a perfect storm (oh yes, and those are coming too!)
So, what are some of the things you can do to counteract the effects of the next few months?
- First, be kind to yourself. Feelings of sadness, not being motivated, or feeling drained are not your fault. Understanding that your struggles are common and are physiologically driven can hopefully help you cut yourself some slack.
- Use a white light (minimum 10,000 lux) at least 30 minutes daily, preferably in the morning.
- Take a vitamin D supplement.
- Get outdoors even when the weather is not ideal – my husband and I say, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing,” so dress for the elements and get out! Even on a cloudy day, you’ll get more light, and the fresh air and expansiveness of being out of your four walls will also help.
- Have a regular sleep/wake cycle with a maximum of 8-9 hours per night. Oversleeping can mess with the quality of our sleep and increase lethargy and mood disturbances.
- Make a point to plan to have fun regularly - even if it’s something as small as putting on a great tune and dancing around your living room (your teenagers will be so impressed!)
The holidays can also bring up feelings of grief or unresolved family or personal issues, and if this is the case, it may help to talk to a therapist. Although it seems counterintuitive to consider booking a therapy appointment at this time of year, it can also provide relief knowing that you have prioritized time for your own healing.
I hope the holidays are kind to you, and I wish you all the best for a healthy and happy 2024. As you embark on your journey to a healthier and happier 2024, remember that support is just a click away. If you need additional guidance or someone to talk to, consider booking an appointment with Colleen O'Grady, MSW, RSW.