The change in seasons has an impact on most of us, to varying degrees. For some people it’s a time of celebration, a reminder to stay connected to the environment around us, to cherish new beginnings. For others it might be a time of sadness, of unwelcome change, of endings, a reminder of time passing and age creeping up on us. For some the seasons can have a more severe impact on our mood. Sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder might experience patterns of depression at certain times of year. It’s most commonly associated with the onset of winter, but that’s not exclusively the case. Some sufferers experience it at other times of the year when the seasons change. Those who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder describe feeling a low mood, a sense of unhappiness or hopelessness, a lack of motivation, and sometimes a sense of numbness or an inability to experience pleasure.
Tips for coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder:
Remember to focus on the elements of your life and lifestyle that you can control, even if you can’t halt the passing of time. This includes thinking about what you wear, and also other ways in which you look after your wellbeing.
Proactively seek out activities and interactions that bring you joy. Whether that’s attending a Christmas party or snuggling up on the sofa and feeling festive. We all need to have things to look forward to all year round.
Consider increasing your physical activity levels. Physical activity offers benefits to our physical health, but it can also have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. When we use our bodies, stretch our muscles, elevate our heartbeat, we are tuning into what our body needs. This helps us to gain perspective and connect with the outside world. It can also have a positive impact on self-esteem, which can help to combat negative thinking and self-criticism. I've commented here for Sorted Magazine about how to beat the winter 'fitness freeze'.
Get outside as much as you can. If we are feeling disconnected, and when the weather is grim, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to step outside. But often, it's exactly what we need. Spending time in nature can help us to feel more grounded, and can really lift our mood.
Exercise can help to reduce depression, which is the major feature of Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is partly down to the immediate mood-lifting powers of exercise. And it’s also partly down to the other features that accompany exercise. For example, exercise might make us spend time outside in nature, or connecting with other people, which can help to ground us and reduce loneliness or isolation. When we exercise this can also have a positive impact on self-esteem, which can help to combat negative thinking and self-criticism. Consider an activity that you will enjoy, but also that helps you to really get to grips with your experience of Seasonal Affective Disorder. So this might involve doing something to get you out of the house in the early mornings. It might involve an all-weather activity, providing you with an impetus to get outside even when it’s cold and muddy and dark. It might involve something sociable, if your experience of Seasonal Affective Disorder leaves you feeling isolated or lonely.
Consider the choices you make about the things that reflect how you feel. An example of this is the concept of 'dopamine dressing', the act of wearing clothes that bring us joy. It’s sometimes associated with bright or sparkly clothing, but in fact it’s really about finding something that brings contentment and happiness. In some ways we might see it as an act of self-care, which can reflect or boost our confidence self-esteem, as it serves as a visual reminder that we deserve to feel good about ourselves. As the weather grows colder and the nights draw in, it’s easy to find our mood sinking lower. Maybe we can’t control the changing of the seasons, or the weather outside, but choosing our clothing helps us to retain control of how we are feeling. Opting for brightness and lightness on a dreary day sends our mind a signal that we deserve to feel joyful. And it shares this message with those around us too.
Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself, how you behave, and your coping strategies. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call. You can also read more of my comments here on the BACP site, all about winter wellbeing.