While it may be the season for pumpkins, cozy sweaters, and some of the best holidays the year has to offer (all good things in my book), it’s also the time of year when the days get shorter and it starts to feel like daylight is a precious commodity. Fortunately many of us will soon be turning our clocks back and stealing a bit more “day” time; unfortunately, it won’t be long before that stolen hour will no longer make a difference.
The change of seasons can be tough. I’ve always been the type whose normally healthy constitution breaks down as soon as the weather starts to change. Getting warmer? Time to catch a cold. Leaves turning? Take another cold! Sometimes, though, it feels like the congestion and sinus pain are a light burden to bear, especially when compared to the effect the arrival of fall and winter has on my mood. I suffer from depressive episodes under the best of circumstances. Take away my daylight, and all hell breaks loose.
Of course, the transition from one season to the next is difficult on a huge number of people who don’t suffer from regular bouts of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD, as it’s rather conveniently abbreviated) can hit at any time of year, but is most often associated with the colder, darker months. It’s similar to depression in its symptoms and manifestations, and can successfully be treated with the same kind of approaches one would find being used for other mood disorders–medication, behavioral therapies, talk therapies, etc.
Sadly (no pun intended), these treatment options aren’t available to everyone. And that’s where the importance of a support system comes into play. Depression can be incredibly isolating, but if you can muster the desire to reach out to someone (or alternately if you can reach out to a friend who might be suffering), your chances of feeling better will improve dramatically. It may not even be entirely necessary to talk about what’s bringing you down; in fact, sometimes it feels better to put the things that are bothering you aside for a few hours, and immerse yourself in a different activity altogether.
Part of weathering (okay, maybe the pun was intended that time) depression involves becoming familiar with the various, and sometimes creative, ways in which you might be able to shake off the feelings that are weighing on you most heavily. In my case, I find that something physical (especially when I can be regular and consistent about it) can do wonders. I try to run 4-5 times a week, and I also make an effort to incorporate a few yoga sessions in my weekly routine. I have a mental list of specific movies that I know will brighten my spirits if I need them (Grey Gardens, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and anything by Wes Anderson). I know that my well-worn copy of The Catcher in the Rye is always on my bookshelf if I need it, and there are specific songs that I’ll turn on if that’s what I feel I need. Things like knitting (especially if you can get a friend to join in, and crash at a cafe for a few hours), writing, or even calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a while can also be great, distracting ways to lift your mood. Most important, though, is remembering that feeling down (whether it’s a chronic or a seasonal feeling) doesn’t make you a bad person. You probably feel bad enough already–why make it worse by convincing yourself that there’s something inherently wrong with you just because you don’t feel happy all the time?
In the spirit of creating a support system, I’m interested in hearing some of your favorite tricks for boosting your mood. What works? What doesn’t?
As for me, I’m off to do some yoga. A girl’s gotta beat the blues somehow.