Lifestyle · Mental Health

Making friends with seasonal affective disorder

Last year, I wrote some advice on how to beat the winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder [S.A.D.]. Today’s post is more focused on how to make friends with S.A.D. “Make friends with it?!” I hear you exclaim. Yes, it is possible. After suffering with S.A.D. since as long as I can remember, I feel I have finally hit the jackpot in terms of feeling comfortable with having this rather annoying disorder.

As a recap for those who don’t know, S.A.D. occurs to many of us Brits at the turn of autumn/winter. The promise of spring and the brilliant sunshine of summer (we do sometimes have weather that isn’t rain 🙂 ) comes to an abrupt end. One moment we are basking in the golden rays of light of a fine summer’s morning and then mornings become so dark it may as well be night time. We go from being Little Miss Sunshine to Mr Grumpy all in the blink of an eye. And then the real feeling of dread sets in, a depression that can catch hold of us for the remainder of autumn/winter.

Stage 1 of beating the winter blues, I followed the items I wrote in my post from last year: Citrus shower gel, Vitamin D, warm and comfortable clothes and waterproof coat, comforting food, hot drinks and bright music. However, the thing that really has changed is that for a whole year, I have walked to the train station each morning and I really feel this has helped. Instead of the change of season seeming so drastic, I have actively watched it change, been better able to anticipate it and also feel closer and a part of the change.

Stage 2 was taking a morning walk. Although we may not want to take that step outdoors because it looks so dreary, outside is brighter than indoors without the lights on. The fresh air helps wake you up and provide a boost of energy.

Stage 3 was making friends with the dark. I realised that the dark mornings were what made me feel the worst. But due to my morning walks, I have come to realise that we can almost think of a year in the UK as nature’s version of a day in our lives. We need to go to sleep to recuperate, to shed off the busy nature of the day and to replenish ourselves for another day. And so too trees and plants need time to shed their leaves and to replenish themselves for fresh growth and bloom in the spring summer. By feeling more a part of the change, actively observing it day by day and understanding the goodness and purpose of darkness really made me make friends with S.A.D.

I have seen the bare ground begin to sprout new life, shoots appear and birds begin to sing to clear blue skies. Bluebells filling the meadow, trees showing off their bright green leaves that gradually become darker and the foliage denser as summer comes into hold. Then comes an overgrowth and pruning and felling of some of the trees, then leaves turning to browns, reds and yellows as they fall away. The crunch of leaves underfoot as I walk. Then mornings of darkness before the birds awaken, dark skies slowly turning purple and pink and yellow as the sun rises. The cool breeze, then a chill down my spine, frozen face and chapped lips. Rain creating small streams across pavements and roads.

Throughout all these changes, I see the same friendly faces each morning. Fellow villagers on their morning walks. The smiles never change, the exchanges of greetings ever pleasant. Autumn-Winter isn’t so bad after all, just a natural way of life and perhaps a time that we too can consider how we can be as nature is: respecting our natural cycles and taking time to rest.

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