The other day I sat down to write a post about how to beat winter SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but it was terrible. I was exhausted, grumpy, overwhelmed, dealing with a sick baby, and only slightly motivated. But I tried. And then Frankie woke up from his nap early and my motivation and my patience were completely gone. I got up the next morning and realized that the very thing I was trying to write about was what was keeping me down. How ironic. If you’ve never had depression that worsens in winter, you may not know what I’m talking about. Here is the simple explanation – winter SAD is depression that worsens as the amount of daylight decreases. I am not a doctor and this is not intended as medical advice. However, if you notice that you are often in a funk from fall through early spring, it may be more than just the winter blahs. See your doctor. Take care of yourself. Your life is worth too much to be wasted in unhappiness. One thing to keep in mind – depression often looks like anger. So if you feel unusually angry, consider that depression may be the reason. Over the years, I have tried a combination of medication adjustments and natural remedies to get through the winter. Since I am not qualified to recommend medical therapies, I present to you a list of the natural remedies that have worked for me.
This is exactly what it sounds like – a box that emits a very bright light. When there is a lot of daylight, the body usually produces enough melatonin to regular mood. However, when the amount of daylight decreases, we need a supplement. Enter the light box. I use the SunTouch Plus by NatureBright every single day from the fall through the beginning of the spring and absolutely love it!
Exercise increases endorphins, which equals happy and healthy. Since I don’t like exercising outside during the winter, I usually resort to playing Just Dance on the Wii and chasing the kids around the room. Walking to school three times a day also helps.
The most important thing to remember here is that you need to have human contact and it must be with someone who will lift you up, not bring you down. Depression can make you want to avoid every living being, but isolation only makes it worse. Even making a (nice) comment on someone else’s Facebook status can give you a lift. Even better, call a friend and make a date to exercise together. I know from personal experience that initiating contact is hard, but I promise the result will be good for you. I talk about this a bit more in-depth in my post Are YOU Lonely?.
Identify Your Triggers and Manage Them
Figure out which stressors lead you down the path of unhappiness and do what you can to alleviate them. For instance, I know that I get particularly stressed during mealtime. Everyone needs something at the same time and I am only one person. So when I am dealing with a meal alone, I find creative ways to get us all through it with full bellies and a happy mama.
Take Care of Yourself
I know you’ve heard this a million times, but it is sound advice. Get yourself a break any way you can so you can come back to your family refreshed. I have found that lowering my standards for a day…or more…really makes a difference. The kids aren’t going to die if I let them have extra screen time or eat too much junk food for a short period of time. It is not a lifestyle I like, but if it gets me through the worst times without permanently damaging their emotional health, I will do it.
Pray or Say the Rosary
I have the Laudate app on my phone and sometimes use the digital rosary feature. It leads me step by step through the process, although I often find that I only have time for one or two decades. Of course, spontaneous prayer is also helpful. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the peace that comes from prayer is priceless. Give it a try.
Now that you’ve heard my list, let me know what works for you.
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