The silver lining in the dark cloud that is S.A.D
The fog is rolling in, we’ve lit the beacons (jack o lanterns) and we’ve been plunged headfirst into the time period of getting up in the dark. Yes, winter IS coming and, along with it, Seasonal Affective Disorder.
What Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) might look like for you (taken from NHS Choices)
- a persistent low mood
- a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
- feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
- feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
- sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
- craving carbohydratesand gaining weight
Personally, I find myself getting mega sleepy in the afternoons, crave a warm cosy cave to hibernate in and have a strange sense that the Dementors from Harry Potter really do exist. If this all sounds familiar, please don’t feel like you’re alone, myself and so many others are with you (in fact Mental Health Foundations reckons SAD affects 1 in 15 people in the UK). I’ve been talking about SAD quite a lot recently with other women in a similar position and have made a few observations with its onset this year that had never occurred to me before – because seeing a silver lining in this literal dark cloud seemed impossible.
But, there are actually some positives to be taken from being susceptible to SAD:
- You are more in tune with nature and the seasons – this is a really great thing. We have evolved to seek rest more during the colder months. It is wired into our natural rhythms that we feel more tired as it gets darker earlier. Perhaps yoru SAD symptoms are a little nudge to you from your body to connect more deeply with nature – get out and spend time in nature more often, eat more seasonally and delve into how all the natural cycles are connected: I recommend reading up on the moon cycle and learning about ancient lore surrounding nature.
- Your body speaks to you and tells you when you need a little more rest – remember, if you heed the messages your body sends you when it whispers, you wont get to the stage of having to deal with it when it screams. And besides, you are not in a battle with your body (as I discussed in this blog post) you are one: if an element of you is desperate for rest, it’s because your whole self needs it.
- There is a joy to be found in darkness. Bear with me on this one, because up until VERY recently I’ve been afraid of the dark. But I was reading a couple of nights ago and got a stark reminder that new life is formed from the dark: seeds grow into big, beautiful and bountiful plants from the dark earth. So perhaps you, like me, might look at this winter a little differently: see it as a time of potential and an opportunity for you to nourish yourself more ready to shine your light more brightly.
I’ve also realised that I have developed a bit of a toolkit for managing my SAD symptoms and you may also find them useful:
- Getting outside for at least 30 minutes every day. Wrap up warm/don your waterproofs and just.get.out in the fresh air. This is so helpful for your body clock when we’re exposed to so much artificial light. I find running at lunchtime during the darker months makes a huge difference to how I feel (thank you, endorphins). But if that just becomes unfeasible…
- This SAD light is amazing. I highly recommend trying light therapy if you are struggling. I had one at my desk at work in the corporate world and although I had to withstand a fair amount of mockery in the beginning for my giant desk sun, the glow of my lamp spread pretty far and other people even commented that they had felt the benefits. This lamp became essential to me being able to keep my eyes open at my desk during the afternoons in the winter months. We’ve now got a lamp in the Can Eat office and it goes on for at least 30 minutes every day when we are struggling to find the time to get outside during daylight hours.
- Practicing good sleep hygiene. For me this means: trying to get up at the same time each day (which is helped along by our Lumie BodyClock), making my bed (stops me from getting back into it during the day), turning off my laptop and switching my phone to flight mode by 8pm each evening (although I use an app to turn off the blue light emitted from screens to minimise the impact of devices on my internal rhythms) and trying to keep the same bed time each evening. I do prioritise sleep the majority of the time but my required 8 hours becomes non negotiable during the darker months as I know it’s the minimum I need to feel good.
- The power of smell is incredible: I have a bunch of essential oil diffusers throughout the house (including the Esta one by Made by Zen) and I intuitively select smells that I’m drawn to at particular times because I know that my body leans towards what it needs. For example, my go to oil combination since the onset of SAD symptoms has been orange and peppermint which I find really uplifting and energising.
FYI this is NOT a sponsored post or an ad – the products I’ve mentioned in this post are ones we have genuinely researched and gone out and purchased as a household – I will only ever share with you things that I have tried and loved.
Are you feeling a little like Bear of John Lewis 2013 fame too? Have any of these tips really sparked an “aha” moment for you? I’d really love to hear more about how you’re feeling today and what these darker months mean for you – let’s have a natter in the comments below, or you can always feel free to drop me a line x