One of my diagnoses is Seasonal Affective Disorder. You’ve probably heard of it at least once or twice, but basically it means that since I don’t get enough sun during the winter months, my brain chemistry goes all screwy and I’m more likely to be depressed. Most people like me just call it SAD (Worst. acronym. ever. As if I need the reminder that I feel like crap during the lack of daylight savings time.)
Luckily, through the years, and especially the last two years, I’ve picked up a few tricks for my toolbox that make things a bit easier for me.
- Start a countdown – Remember those paper chains you used to make as a kid? Make one of those. Mark off days on a calendar. Set up an alert on your phone. I start counting down the days between when we fall back and winter solstice (the shortest day of the year). I know that if I can just make it to that day, then the days will get longer again and I’ll be fine.
- Have something to look forward to daily/weekly/monthly/whatever – This is going to sound weird, but Fantasy Football has helped me a lot with this. (Special shout out to my fantasy league “Our TDs are Real”!) Having something fun to do each week – setting up my team, trash talking with the other players, and watching the games – has given me something happy to think about rather than dreading that 4 PM sunset. And it seems to be working. The time between setting the clocks back and springing forward seems to go a little faster.
- Sunbathe – OK, maybe not in a bikini, but yes, get outside. I try to make a point to stand in the sun at least once a day unless it’s painfully cold outside. I usually hang out in a sunbeam and soak up some rays for a few minutes while my dogs run around the back yard. This is especially key for me because I have difficulty with SAD lamps.
- Get a SAD lamp – SAD-ly (see what I did there?), most insurances don’t cover the cost of a SAD lamp, but you can generally find them on Amazon for around $100. Basically you just sit down with it just off to the side of you at a 45 degree angle and do something with your eyes *open* for about 30 minutes a day. There are a couple of hitches though – one, it has to be first thing in the morning and two, it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people experience heightened anxiety or strange feelings when using one (um, me) and some see no improvement at all. It’s worth discussing with your doctor or therapist though. You can find more information about choosing an appropriate SAD lamp on the Mayo Clinic Website.
Luckily for me, my seasonal affective disorder is mild, but there are many people out there who have it worse. Remember. If you can just get to the shortest day of the year, you’re golden. Now go get some sunshine!