Beginning note: I have not mentioned light therapy. I haven’t tried it. It seems expensive to me (both for utility bills and initial pay out for equipment). It is proven to work though, and tackles the depression feelings of SAD, which is immensely useful. I think that coupled with the things below it would be even more helpful, as those are things you can do quite simply and cheaply and are also super effective.
I think everyone knows what Seasonal Affective Disorder is, and I think a good deal of people suffer SAD-like symptoms in the Winter, even if not susceptible to depression and/or SAD. So I really wanted to revisit the whole notion of self care, as if I’ve never touched on it before, as there are three things I’ve been particularly trying to keep that have helped me this Winter and that I feel could also help others.
I’m going to add the same aside here as I do in the video, that if long term meds is your solution, you keep going with that. Maybe add in something (with the advice of a doctor) to help your kidneys though because, whilst the body (via the kidneys) actually detoxifies itself, taking medication longterm can seriously impact the kidneys’ ability to work, and damage them. So bear that in mind if meds are what keep you level/functioning/happy.
The three things I do are (as I said) things I’ve mentioned before in self-care videos BUT, I feel that as a person who struggles to keep this good self care stuff up I’m in a useful position to speak honestly about it all. And I think that sharing honestly is so much more helpful than preaching or proselytizing. As one struggling human being to another, I think I can help people better with my daily battle to do good on my own behalf than any of those people who seem to do good effortlessly.
In light of that, here are three things I try to do in Winter that help a hell of a lot:
- Diet – yeah, you know the drill, I’m not talking diets here, but what you eat. In winter the body craves more carbs and sweet things, now of course the answer is not to go ape and eat all of the things, but you do need to be listening to your body. Your body is your barometer. If it says ‘I need this’, then give it some of what it needs in moderation and keep it happy, keep it functioning. We all need a balanced diet of carbs, fat (YES fat), protein and sugar–so however you eat (be it omnivorous/vegan/veggie/pescetarian/paleo etc) make sure you’re providing your body with the things it’s asking for as well as the things you know are good for it. The things your body asks for are generally things it needs and therefore are good for it. It’s a simple thing but it helps. And where I fail here is in just throwing my hands up in defeat and eating ALL THE THINGS and then crashing. Repeat to self Ren: ‘I must not eat all the crap. That is NOT what my body is asking for.’
- Sleep – This is my achilles heel. I am a night owl who sucks at mornings and so I end up barreling along on a toxic mix of exhaustion and adrenalin. To counteract this, especially in winter when I need more sleep than I allow my stupid self, I try to let naps happen if I have time for them and I set aside unequivocal resting time when I can (weekends and some evenings). That is time set in stone for chilling in bed reading or lounging about watching films etc, a rest is as good as a sleep if you’re really letting go and being relaxed. Trust. If you’re struggling to sleep when you need to (as I do on school nights etc), a good tip is to set a cut-off time for screens, the light keeps your brain awake so if you’re spending time on a phone to help you sleep, it’s not helping, so quit it (talking to myself as much as anyone else here). If you’re oversleeping, the best advice I have for that from when I was a veteran oversleeper, is to yank on your most hideous pair of adulting trousers and get your butt to bed before midnight. It works. Harsh but true. Not even kidding.
- Exercise – Yup. That old onion. Fact is in winter you so totally need to exercise just as much as in the summer months. Your body requires it. For health, for longevity, for sanity, all that good shit. I find being flexible with the exercise I do helps me to keep up in my daily battle against my toddler-stubborn willpower to do exactly the opposite of what works and be lazy. If I ache, I do yoga, if I feel sluggish I do cardio, if I feel tired, I do a combination of strength training and cardio. Even at times like now when my body is in full revolt, all joints aching, I try to keep going with at least one of those things, because it makes everything SO much better. I cannot stress enough how even a tiny bit of exercise (a walk, swim, 20 mins of yoga or whatever) can positively impact your body and mind. It is amazing and it works.
So, those are my three things that I try to keep up against all odds, that really help me keep my SAD and pretty much everything else (including hefty bouts of depression and bipolar) in check. I wouldn’t share them if they didn’t work, nor would I be any less honest than I am here. It’s a struggle, a constant battle with your worst self, and it can be as much a logistical nightmare as getting a toddler through a sweet aisle, but it is possible. You just have to persist and work within your limitations and occasionally dangle a cake of encouragement in front of your eyes.
Some SAD resources: