(Photo courtesy of http://www.barendspsychology.com)
Seasonal Affective Disorder. Seasonal Depression. Winter Blues.
Call it what you wish, it is a bag of shite.
One winter about 10 years ago I was back and forth to my GP several times for blood tests. I was constantly unwell, exhausted, irritable, unable to concentrate and increasingly fat. I felt like an angry bear who needed to urgently hibernate lest I punch any poor human in my path.
My Vitamin D levels were low (I live in the UK…) but nothing else showed up except my symptoms which the GP decided were S.A.D. I’ve since discovered my father suffers with it badly and my uncle has had to come to some arrangement whereby he spends 3 months abroad to prevent him hurtling into a black hole of despair every winter (either that or he’s pulling a fast one, which – if you knew my uncle – would be unsurprising).
It is a real thing though. Here’s the NHS link for a bit more info: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
I find that from October through to March I am dragging myself through the days like a befuddled sloth. I had a tiny lie-down on my daughter’s bedroom floor as she played next to me earlier but realised that within seconds her chatter was becoming distant and dream-like and I was already wanting to doze off. As for trying to focus on work: sheesh. I find myself re-reading the same block of text about 5 times and my ability to problem-solve has all but eluded me.
I write this post sat next to a light box. Apparently some studies have shown them to be as effective as anti-depressant medication in the treatment of S.A.D. I do find it makes some difference, especially if I switch it on immediately after my alarm in the morning. My husband really enjoys that…If you are going to try one out though, find one that is SAD certified and isn’t going to fry your retina. Mine is about A3 paper sized by Duronic and at about £60 it does the job well enough.
I always try to get out of the house as much as possible in the winter. I spent two days largely indoors last week because of boring adult-related tasks like car trouble and life admin and I thought I was going to lose my mind. I was emotional, fraught, irritable and I felt like a caged beast. I told my husband we were going out and I bundled he and the toddler into the car and headed to the beach in the drizzle. Living by the coast, it is basically wet for about 11 months of the year (those are not official statistics but they probably could be).
We walked along the shore in the bracing cold watching sea gulls swooping in to land. I took big lungfuls of salty air and let it blow the cobwebs away.
My husband has some mobility problems so he offered to stay with the kid while I scrambled around rock pools and bounded around the shore like an excitable puppy. I took this photo during a break from the drizzle.
It’s still a majestic, spiritual place to me, the beach – no matter the season. I went home pink-nosed and far more energised.
I spent as much time as possible outside yesterday and noticed the difference in the baby’s mood. She was more cheerful, far less tantrumy (that’s not a word but it should be) and she went to bed smiling.
So that’s going to have to be my strategy for the next 5 months: get out. Every day, anywhere, just out. If I find myself wanting to crawl under the desk for a snooze: I will get outside, even if just for a walk around the block.
This too shall pass, my S.A.D. friends.
Does anyone else out there have any pearls of wisdom they can impart about managing their mood in the winter?