I’ve been keeping a secret stash of old birthday cards, letters, gig tickets, postcards, crumpled photographs (taken on a Noughties Nixon digital camera), in a dusty Topshop shoebox stored safely in a drawer under my bed. This treasure trove of happy memories is my go to whenever I feel the seasonal pangs of the dreaded black cloud coming on.
Today on the blog, I’m talking about S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) and how it can make my life and so many others lives feel utterly shit. For as long as I remember, I’ve always been affected by the change and the mood of the seasons. Fortunately it now only creeps up on me a couple of times a month but when it does my mood plummets and all want to do is stay under my duvet, in complete silence until I feel ready to surface.
Right now, I’m in a good place as I write this post. It’s one of those Instagrammable (though rare) Autumn days where everything is golden, literally. But if I take a few moments to think about how less light, shorter daytime hours, severe temperatures and the colour of the sky can make me feel, it’s essentially a word puzzle that goes like this DARK, DISMAL, DEPRESSED, OUT OF PLACE, GUILT, LOW, NEGATIVE, PITIFUL, WORTHLESS, FAILING, FAILURE, LETHARGIC, ANGRY, IRRITABLE, HORMONAL, LAZY, PATHETIC, UNDESERVING, the list goes on.
Sometimes I feel like S.A.D. is in control of my life, stopping me doing the things I usually really like doing such as running in the evening or early morning because I don’t feel safe to run outside in the dark. I hate that sometimes the sky can feel so grey and low that it literally feels like I’m carrying its huge weight on my shoulders. I hate that I have constant dark circles October to February and crave 17 billion hours sleep. I’m sometimes so irritable and snappy, that I don’t recognise myself and feel plagued with horrible guilt for saying the things I have and reacting the way I did. Especially, to those who I’m closest to. And then just like that I see a glimpse of Autumn’s jewel toned trees, clear blue skies and pavements littered with conkers and I’m back to me again.
There was a pinnacle moment in Autumn of 2015 where I had a particularly bad bout of S.A.D. It came just shortly after I’d come back from our honeymoon in America, travelling around the sun-drenched West Coast before returning home just as Autumn was approaching. More than likely my feelings were probably heightened by post wedding blues, the reality of wedding and honeymoon debt that now needed to be paid off and of course the start of the seasonal change, I was in a low, low place. I think I cried nearly every day for a month be it out of frustration, anger or just feeling utterly worthless. I then knew I needed to stop ignoring what was going on in my head and start taking better care of my heath, mentally, physically and emotionally.
I personally decided not to go and talk to a professional, invest in special lamp or take medication though I completely appreciate that these methods work perfectly well for other S.A.D. suffers, who knows I may decide to go down this route in the future should I feel the need. Instead I called on a few close people who I know had experienced the blues (to put it lightly) and we worked out a few successful ways of beating the black cloud collectively. Whilst I can’t say I haven’t experienced S.A.D days since, there are definitely far and few between. Below, I’ve listed the ones that seem to work for me and I really hope they might be useful for fellow S.A.D suffers. If you have any more suggestions, I’d love to hear about them. Comment below or email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I felt a bit nervous writing about all of this for people read, hopefully it will help someone out there.
My Top 8 Blues Beaters
1. Let in the light - No matter how dreary it is outside, I find opening the curtains, pulling up the blinds and slightly opening windows in every room of the house helps lift my mood. The natural light and cool air makes everything feel fresher and cleaner and clears the space in my head to think positively.
2. Avoid alcohol - The temptation to reach for a glass of wine when your feeling low is so appealing but it never actually makes me feel any better about the situation. Instead it heightens my emotional state and makes me feel super sensitive that I actually feel worse than before I gulped the 250 ml of Chardonnay.
3. Clean up - Whilst desire to stay in last nights pjs coupled with unbrushed teeth, unwashed hair, face and body, hidden under the safety blanket of my duvet is preferable, festering in my own dirt makes me feel a thousand times worse. Try running a bath, use your favourite salts or oil, light some tea light candles and read something if you need to distract your thoughts.
4. Invest in Winter Hobbies - Naturally we spend more time indoors in Autumn and Winter but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something positive, mindful and creative. I’ve stepped up my kitchen game by purchasing a handful of really good cook books as well as starting a Pinterest recipe board filled with seasonal recipes. Doing this has also encouraged me to invest time into seeking out specialist fresh, produce meaning I’m visiting more farmers markets and whole food stores instead of whizzing around an unnspiring Supermarket getting pissed off because they’ve moved the cereal aisle again ! Another few winter hobbies I’m hoping to try include attending a book club in my local area, taking part in a wreath making workshop at Christmas and subscribing to inspiring pod casts.
5. Work up a sweat - I know, I know when it looks like dooms day outside the last thing you want to do is put on your trainers and work up a sweat. But it’s so beneficial if you do ! It’s well known fact that when we excerise it boosts serotonin levels releasing happy, positive chemicals to our brains. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t want to run in baltic conditions, turn your attention to trying another form of working out instead and perhaps an activity you can share with others. On my days off, I like to drive out to the countryside and wander in beautiful landscapes that inspire me and make me feel calm and peaceful. I’ve also committed myself to a Monday night yoga class where 30 minutes of the class is spent in restorative positions. I finally emerge looking and feeling like a rag doll and usually have the best, solid night’s sleep after taking part.
6. Keep a memory box - As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, my own personal memory box is a warming reminder of the people around me who have shown their love, kindness and support scribed in letters and cards. Looking back through nostalgic memorabilia like this is also a good reminder of the full and diverse life I have chose to live and shared with my favourite people.
7. Plan ahead - My friends and family are dotted all over the U.K. so it is so important that we schedule in phone chats, coffee dates and weekend breaks in advance. Making future promises to the people I care about and love really helps me to stay positive whilst giving me something to look forward to and of course keep busy. If there is one thing I’ve learnt the most about myself these last few years it is that I’m not very good with too much time on my hands and no purpose to the things I am doing.
8. Take a digital detox - Whilst Instagram is mostly an inspiring platform full of talented, creative people posting pictures of the beautiful things they see and experience, it can make me feel like my own life doesn’t compare. And probably at that dark moment hiding under the duvet, it doesn’t. But always remember, people (including me) only really ever share the best bits of their life and sometimes it is not necessarily ‘real life’ but a beautiful, purposely styled flat-lay or still life image. Turn off your phone, stow it in drawer and invest some time in you rather than looking at other people’s lives.