Can anyone else really feel Winter creeping in? I'm not some kind of softball, I haven't turned my heating on yet or anything, but there is definitely a chill in the air. Every year around this time I get a touch of the blues. I realise I'm lucky not to get a full blown seasonal depression episode the majority of the time, although some years are worse than others. It's something I've learnt to recognise and put my own strategies into place to counteract the feelings of sadness, anxiety and exhaustion. I've shared some on this in previous years, one of my favourite posts is here and has several ideas for dealing with SAD. This year, I thought I would recover those ideas and add a few more. I hope this might be of help to anyone who has a similar outlook when October hits, but obviously, I'm not a mental health professional and if you find that you feel so low you aren't functioning properly, it's probably worth a visit to the doctor who can recommend various interventions.
1. Talk About It
One of the things I've noticed in my thirties is that people are much more willing to discuss depression and feeling low. I have quite a few friends who I have in-depth conversations about the feelings that can happen upon me during this time and I am confident in saying it's almost certainly the thing that has helped me the most when it comes to pulling my socks up and getting on with things. It really helps to know that other people, not just random Internet people but my actual friends, are going through similar stuff. There can be a feeling of isolation that comes with anxiety and depression disorders and quite often realising that other people are feeling the same way can put a mind at ease. I'm not alone, these feelings are normal and almost everyone has them to some degree, some of the time.
If you struggle to connect with people in this way, I've noticed something that might help. Sometimes, people don't WANT to just sit down of an evening and start talking about their depression, why would they? There's still a stigma around mental health. But you can listen for clues and be the first to state that you feel something too and this can open doors to conversations that have a real benefit in dealing with SAD.
2. Have Coping Strategies
I spoke in my post last year about some of the things that I do to overcome the blues. Seasonal depression in the most part is encouraged by a lack of Serotonin. Not getting that Vit D hit from the sunshine can really affect your minds chemical balance but there are small things you can do to boost your bodies production of the hormones needed to counteract depression. Eating dark chocolate, hugging, watching baby animals, exercise and creating self-care rituals all have an impact on how much Serotonin your body produces and at the very least, giving yourself a positive task to complete that you know has the capacity to make you feel better can have a great result. Don't sniff at doing tiny things for yourself - a face mask, a bar of chocolate and a favourite film, or spending time with people whose company you enjoy can prevent you from dwelling on the negatives.
3. Read Books That Help
Autumn is a great time to cosy up with a book, in my mind - I don't get a huge amount of reading done during the hustle and bustle of the summer so I tend to save a reading list that I want to work through when Autumn hits. One of the books that has helped me most in overcoming my negative thinking patterns is Heart Of The Revolution by Noah Levine. It's a book on Buddhism for beginners and it covers a lot about letting go of guilt and focusing on positive experiences without clinging to them and being sad when they are over - this really resonates with me during times when I I feel down and it's a book that I go back to over and over. If Buddhism isn't for you, it's a great time to read a book that benefits you in another way. I'm just starting The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon. It's a book for people who want to develop various streams of income from their skills and aren't necessarily defining their success in terms of working a 9-5 job day in day out. Reading books like this inspires me to work harder at making my dreams a reality and it also takes my mind off my mild depression because I'm focusing on the future. Other books that have helped me through the winter months are The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, Eat Prey Love (the book is infinitely better than the film!) and various books on mindfulness and motivation that I'll share in a future post. I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments for books that have helped you through dark times. Next up for me is The Kindness Method - about treating yourself kindly for a more positive life.
4. Get Out Of The House
Probably the most over-egged bit of advice ever, I'm pretty sure there are few ailments that exist that at some point the patient hasn't been told that getting some fresh air might help. At school, Matron would suggest I sat by an open window for pretty much any injury - broken your leg have you Katy? Some fresh air will surely mend those bones! Now, if I see sunshine, I make a point of getting out in it. Vitamin D is absorbed through skin, so roll up your sleeves and trousers and get outside to take in some of that wonder vitamin - it's one of those irritating things that won't make an immediate impact, but increasing your sun exposure during September and October is proven to have an impact on the severity of your Serotonin deficit over the winter.
5. Define and Deal With Anxiety
People will often refer to Anxiety as one illness, one mental health issue. "I have Anxiety" people will say. "I feel Anxious". Actually anxiety is a catch-all term for a number of disorders. Finding out which sort of anxiety you have and what triggers it can be a lifelong process. I've noticed that few people talk about the specific form that their anxiety takes. Is it too personal to discuss? Are people worried that others will view them as crazy? Do people use the term 'anxiety' because it's easier than explaining that they are terrified by social situations, health issues, accidents, crowds, heights etc. If you are able to define to yourself what makes you anxious, this can help you to avoid triggers. One of the forms that my own personal anxiety takes is health worries. During low days, I can spend several hours googling non-specific symptoms and diagnosing myself with every type of illness I find. On really bad days, my brain will start practising how I will tell my friends and family that I'm dying. It's stupid and it's a waste of time, but I since I started to pick up more on what triggers me to have worse moments I am able to try and avoid situations were those triggers might appear. I don't watch hospital based reality shows anymore and I've deleted myself from several health forums. I've unfollowed individuals who blog about long-term illness because their updates can start me off on a worry spiral again - when I am going through a low time, it helps to avoid things that make me feel lower.
6. Lumie Bodyclock Starter 30 Wake-Up Alarm Clock
I mentioned this alarm clock in my previous post but it's so good I'm going to mention it again. It's about £60 on Amazon and at John Lewis and it wakes you up slowly with warm light that projects on the nearest wall in a sun ray pattern. Waking up feeling like I actually want to get out of bed is a complete change to normal because usually, as soon as the mornings get misty I want to huddle up in a ball at the bottom of my duvet and not speak to anyone for a month!
This isn't one of those vitamin D giving lights, it's just a more natural and refreshing way to start the day!
I hope some of these might have helped someone, somewhere. Please do comment your own coping mechanisms below, I'm always on the lookout for ways to boost positivity going into Winter.