Day 42. Ascending to Imbolc. My tops tips for dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)
I'm not a medical professional, but I have been dealing with seasonal depression for a very long time! These are some of the things that I have found useful, as a starting point for anyone else who struggles with the shifting seasons:
First off, get some medical advice. I fully appreciate that this can be hard, especially if you are feeling depressed. But it’s an important starting point to go see your GP. I would recommend asking for some blood tests, because their can be a whole range of factors that play a part in depression, including iron and vitamin D levels, hormones... and your doctor is going to be the best place to start to rule out some of those things. And rebalancing those can be a good place to start before trying further medication.
There is absolutely no shame in taking anti depressants, or any other medication that helps stabilise your mood. There is also no shame if those paths don't work for you, and it's totally worth trying other routes too/instead. Doctors do love to prescribe antidepressants; it's hard for them to find other solutions, especially within the NHS where they are so strapped right now. There can be side effects. They can also take a few weeks to work. So I would recommend making sure that you read the packaging and make a decision that feels good for you, knowing whatever you decide will be fine, and you can change your mind.
Keep your support network in the loop. Again. I know. This can be really tricky. But when suffering with something like depression, it's really important to keep talking about it, and sharing with those who love you. This one can be as simple as sending a text message saying "I feel.... I need.... Can you...?" Just to keep people in the loop. Not to ask for advice or sympathy necessarily, but so that they know.
Go and see a herbalist. It will really help to take as much information with you as you can about your current baseline and any medications you're taking. I have been taking St John's Wort as a tincture since May last year. It can be a really helpful herb for depression and I actually don't feel depressed this winter for the first time in a long time! But there can be a lot of contraindications and cautions, so it's not one to just leap into taking without medical advice. A good herbalist will take into account all of the things going on in your body right now, and give you the perfect mix to help you to rebalance. Plants are SO powerful for helping our systems when they are struggling - things like nervines and adaptogens can be taken as teas and tinctures and really help boost our bodies and minds.
Try light therapy. There have been some really good results with this, as it's believed that SAD is due to a lack of light. It needs to be a proper, therapeutic light, so check out reviews and options first.
Read 'Sunbathing in the Rain: A cheerful book about depression.' The thing about depression is that it can come from lots of different directions. It might be as simple as a lack of light affecting your brain and your neurotransmitters. It might be that there is some other cause instead/as well. This book is brilliant for helping you to figure out the root of your depression and therefore the pathway back out of the darkness.
Try a talking therapy. Especially if you are discovering that there are bigger causes for your depression than 'just' the winter, having an impartial person to talk to and help you see things in a different way can be INVALUABLE. If you have a tendency to feel like a burden when you talk to friends and family, or if they have their plates full, a therapist or counsellor is literally just there for you. It's their whole job! You can talk about yourself as much as you need to without feeling guilty. And they are trained to help you, this is their field of genius and they will have some amazing tools to try.
Work on your mindset and energy. EFT (emotional freedom technique) can be a brilliant tool to begin with. It's a form of energy work where you combine words and affirmations with tapping on reflexology points. When I have been really knocked sideways by something, this is my therapeutic go to. It's soothing and gentle but really powerful. Especially if you have depression with some anxiety sprinkled on top! I recommend my wonderful friend Claire P Hayes.
Take are of your nervous system. Depression is an illness, just like any other. And it requires that we take care of ourselves more carefully and intensely. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of depression, of course, is that taking care of ourselves feels a lot harder! But. If you imagine having a cold and drinking a nice warming honey drink to soothe your throat, there are things that are going to help soothe your mind and nervous system more than others, and they are going to help you to feel better and recover faster. For example: Don't read things that make you feel rubbish. Unfollow friends or influencers on social media who trigger you. Know that you can come back into the world when you are feeling better, but right now, you need to nurture yourself. Watch uplifting films and box sets. Get out in nature when you can. Talk to friends who give you warm and fuzzy vibes. Eat warming cosy foods.
Tune into nature. It can feel bleak out there. BUT. Know that the magic of life is only sleeping, it hasn't gone. And it will come back, just like your better moods will come back. Using my nature notes page can help you track how the light is coming back a little each day, and how nature is waking back up.
Track your cycles. If you have a body that has a menstrual cycle, those hormones rising and dropping can be a big factor in your moods. There is way more to our cycles than PMS and blood; there are all these other phases and superpowers that come along with them. I have found that tuning in more to my cycles has helped me to make peace with them, and not be so surprised if my mood drops.
Remember that you're not alone. That this is a very normal thing that happens, and it's ok. It's horrible, but it's ok.
Hibernate as much as you can. I really believe that one of the reasons that it happens is because we have set up our human lives to be at odds with the seasons, and we are expected to be the same all year around, even though the light and the temperature changes. One of the things that helps me is to slow down where I can, remember that I am a mammal, and do my own version of hibernating as much as possible!
It's basically the whole reason I created A Year of Wild Wisdom, and I'd love you to come and join this online programme if you feel the call. You can always drop me a message to see if it would be a good fit.