Self-Care for Seasonal Depression
Right now as I type this I am wearing doubled-up socks & a shawl & I am using my Magic Bag as an ergonomic wrist pad & I am chugging green tea like nobody’s business.
My hands are like little ice cubes, anyway.
It is getting dark so early. And there’s this chill.
I notice that some things are going on in my brain that haven’t happened in awhile. A moment of panic before walking into a crowded room. That nagging feeling hanging over me that I realize is actually sadness, or even fear, detached from any concrete cause. A desire to go back to sleep before the morning is even over.
These are small things, for now. But I have a couple of seasons Actually-Really-Diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder under my belt & I am pretty sure I recognize the welcoming committee.
Hello, SAD season.
Last year I spent a lot of time doing the work that would help me feel better.
This year, I have my fingers crossed that I can find ways to stop it from getting so bad to begin with. I want to write about my plans now, so that if everything goes horribly awry later on this winter I can help myself press the reset button. That being said, I know that depression isn’t something that you can just decide to overcome with a lot of hard work – there is some degree to which I’m stuck with whatever my brain chemistry wants to do, & I get that. Fully expecting the occasional can’t-get-out-of-bed kinda day.
Self-Care for Seasonal Depression
- Get shit done. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a self-imposed pressure to finish big projects, meet deadlines, get organized. I know I won’t feel up to big stuff when just basic life skills seem overwhelming, so I want to get ahead wherever I can be.
- Access as many resources as possible. I made an appointment with my nurse practitioner & I will totally see about any free counselling or etc. I feel so lucky to be in a place where I can access some good, free healthcare. If you have this access too, I hope you use it to the extent that it helps you.
- Move my body around. I’m serious about keeping up with the jogging, & when it gets too cold or snowy for that I will think about a gym membership, if I can hack it. But even a long walk or a laptop dance party will do the trick.
- Get some damn sun. Going outside in the daytime – gonna try it.
- Stay warm. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like my SAD is equally affected by heat as well as light. I love a good cuddly extra-layered outfit but I also need to remember to wear slippers at home, drink more tea, take baths, use a hot pad, whatever. When I get too cold the first thing that happens is that I get mean, and then I get super unproductive. No thanks. I resolved to turn the heat up enough in the house that I can be a functional adult, even if it ends up being more expensive.
- Be aware of the sugar & carbs diet. Carbohydrate cravings are a real symptom of seasonal depression & I am not gonna tell you that I will stop eating them, but I know I feel good in a more stable way when I drink a lot of water & eat a lot of vegetables.
- Be aware of the beer/caffeine cycle. In the summer, if I drink a lot, I get a hangover. In the winter, if I drink a lot, I feel despondent & I panic. Same thing happens with too much coffee. I’m stocking up on herbal tea, okay?
- Read a lot – but not only sad books. Every winter I end up on a Margaret Atwood binge & then I end up with no hope left for the world. Reading is the best & I love learning stuff but too many depressing stories in a row is – wait for it – depressing. Sometimes I like to read self help books & take a lot of notes – generally a “take what you like discard the rest philosophy works best.
- Make things. When I feel crappy it’s easy to passively consume media & sleep a lot but I feel way better when I actually Do Stuff. Making things gives my brain something to focus on & is a visible marker of productivity. Doing a creative thing just feels better.
- Cute animals. Cute animal videos.
- Call my parents. They, like, believe in me. & they like to visit. & they are nice.
- Talk about shit. The best thing I ever did for managing my depression was to be open enough about it that I was able to connect with people who are going through the same things. Sometimes being able to name what is happening & know you are not alone is so fantastically helpful. I have slowly stopped seeking close friendships with people who refuse to get it about mental health stuff. Being able to trust the people around you is such an amazing thing.
- Experiment. The other day I had the thought – what if, instead of buying lipstick and beer when I want to spoil myself, I bought plants?