Chasing Sunshine: Coping with Seasonal Depression

Sweater weather is back! 

I adore a good fall wardrobe with tall boots, warm scarves, and the cozy security of a chunky, cable-knit sweater. I could get lost in the vibrant reds and golds that glimmer through streaks of sunlight, while leaves rustle around my feet. I love the ease of soups and crock-pot meals that add to a little slower pace of life as the weather turns crisp.

But then daylight savings hits.

The beauty of fall starts to fade away and the darkness begins creeping in. I walk into work in the morning with only a glimpse of the waking sun. I leave from work, just in time to catch it dipping back below the horizon. It feels like the darkness never ends.

Chasing Sunshine Seasonal DepressionThe darkness is hard. Seasonal mood changes are hard. Whether you relate best to the winter blues, seasonal depression, or suffer from full-blown seasonal affective disorder; we have to work hard to make sure we don’t let the darkness of the winter months turn our summer-selves into strangers.

My summer-self is a freaking wonder woman compared to my winter-self.

My summer-self can cram 26 hours of life into a 24 hour day. She’s organized, efficient, and effective. When the darkness rolls in, my wonder woman loses her boots in the snow. Tasks that take minutes in summer months, stretch into hours in the winter. Thoughts and ideas are lost before I even have time to write them down. I find myself losing chunks of time; spacing out and trying to remember things that somehow are lost in the recesses of my frazzled mind.

Then, the frustration rolls in.

Why can’t I remember anything?

Why am I not getting anything accomplished?

Which kid needs picked up from which practice at what time? How many bags need schlepped to school for winter gear? And, for-the-love-of-all-things-holy, why can’t any child ever find matching gloves!? Is our house the black hole of right-handed mittens?

In the darkness, I struggle to get out of bed each morning. I am short with my children. I am condescending to my husband. I stress-eat like there is no tomorrow. My winter-self sounds like an absolute joy to hang out with, right?!

So how do we beat the winter blues?

Let there be light.

Let all the natural light you can find pour over your work and home areas. Make sure to keep your curtains open in the winter. Get out over your lunch break and take a quick walk. Eat your lunch near a window to feel the warmth of the sun spilling in. 

Make exercise part of your routine.

During the middle of winter, exercise is often the last thing you want to do. Spoil yourself with a gym membership to make working out easier. Text a friend who will act as an accountability partner. Take 15 minutes of your lunch break to walk around the block and get your heart rate up. Once you get moving, exercise can make a big difference in your mood.

Know your triggers.

Figure out what helps you cope with your mood changes and make sure they are healthy coping strategies. I know I’m a stress-eater. As soon as I see myself heading toward the pantry, I know I’m headed for a low point. Comfort foods only offer comfort for so long, so when you realize that’s the path you’re heading down, have a plan B to fall back on. For me, before opening the pantry door, I head to the fridge door. With far healthier options, I can binge on carrot sticks and fulfill the need to stress-eat, without the follow-up guilt. 

Take a day for sunshine.

According to Forbes Magazine, “Each year, American workers throw away about $52.4 billion of earned benefits simply because they fail to use all their vacation time despite all the obvious personal benefits of taking time off to regenerate and reconnect.” Need some sunlight? Take a day off. Bask in the sun. Your employer will thank you when you return the next day as a pleasant, productive team member.

Pack your bags.

Need more than just an afternoon off? Make yourself a priority and take a few days to follow the sun. January is the cheapest month of the year for flights. If you can swing it, schedule a trip for somewhere warm over the winter. Not only can you get a pick-me-up halfway through winter, but you also have the excitement of looking forward to some much deserved down-time as things get hectic through the holidays. Can’t swing a flight? Even a few hours south to St. Louis or Kansas City can offer a boost in temperature during the cold winter months and increase the intensity of the sun.

Do you suffer from the winter blues? What do you do to find sunshine?

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