Season Changes Get Me Down. Exploring Seasonal Affective Disorder

Raise your hand if you went into this past Summer full force. I don’t know about you, but I was like an animal let out of a cage. Finally, I could go and do what I wanted without the weight of the pandemic fears I had carried for the past two years. Looking back, I can see I was on a personal quest to squeeze every experience out of the sunshine and travel freedom that I could. Let me tell you I did just that. It was exhilarating, travel chaos aside. Fall came in full force and once again I felt supercharged to experience as much of the great outdoors as I could. I hiked, biked, and relished every leaf and it was extraordinary. Living intentionally like I hadn’t in quite some time was amazing. Then the weather shifted and cue a dip in that intentionality that had driven me.

What is it about season changes that bring some of us down? Depending on where you live, the season changes, especially Fall into Winter, can feel like you’re entering into a bit of the dark ages. Less sun, cold weather, and spending way more time indoors can leave you feeling a sense of dread for the next five to six months. Here in Colorado, we can get our last snow in May ( I will never get used to that).

Why do we have this dip in the mood with seasonal changes?

There is a myriad of different reasons. Certain seasons negatively impact lifestyle. The holidays are coming and that can be stressful. Getting around is harder due to dangerous driving conditions. The list goes on and on. SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a genuine thing. I personally think it has varying degrees but here are some of the hallmark symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder particularly moving from Fall to Winter.

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy
  • A lack of enthusiasm for daily activities
  • A lack of feeling optimistic about the future
  • Feeling Down

I offer this list to you to normalize this condition. Many spend the Winter wondering why they feel off. SAD ( what an appropriate name) is a very real thing. The good news is that if you can understand that there are things that you can implement into your life that can combat these symptoms you will have a much happier Winter.

I have a theory that those of us that are prone to SAD or even those who have never experienced these symptoms are more likely to have them this Winter. Why would that be? My theory is we are all a bit traumatized by how disrupted our lives were during the pandemic, particularly and especially in the Winter. Last year at this time we were sent back into our homes, and kids were pulled from school because numbers were going up again. The feelings of cabin fever from Winter were heightened by the need to isolate out of caution. Let’s not forget our family get-togethers for holidays were completely disrupted leaving us feeling even more dysregulated. Despite facing a long Winter, I do have a deep sense of hope and excitement around a Winter that isn’t fraught with anxiety and disconnection. I look forward to celebrating holidays the way we used to or even in new redefined ways.

Back to what you can do to fight SAD. If you are aware of the symptoms above, you can develop strategies around them. If you are feeling down, ask yourself if your mood results from a situation or a general feeling. If it’s not situational it’s time to implement self-care. My go-to self-care toolbox includes exercise, reading, participating in a Winter hobby, and connecting with friends. The self-care toolbox you create for yourself can address low mood, feeling unoptimistic about the future, weight gain, and sleep. Create a plan that works for you and gauge the results. If you live in a region where it is dark and gloomy, you can actually buy a sunlight lamp that gives you the brightness of sunlight. I have a friend who lives in an often gloomy London, who swears by her lamp. Here are a few options to help you out

Winter is coming and that is ok. We GET to have a wonderful Winter. In my case, I’m pretty exhausted from making the most of Summer and Fall, so maybe some cozy rest is in order. Know this, you aren’t alone. Create a toolbox for yourself and if you are still feeling low get a good counselor to process your thoughts and emotions. Speaking of counselors, I am one! Contact me today to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, pull out all your cozy stuff, and let’s look forward to making it the best Winter season in years.

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