Listen, every season can bring unique challenges. Summer, especially in warmer regions, can chase you indoors too often, for too long, maybe with a house full of bored kids and a
newly disrupted schedule. All of your ambitious travel plans, crammed into a schedule that alienates the fewest possible people, can leave people exhausted and fawning over travel photos that you literally can’t recall taking because of the whirlwind of activity. Fall you might be back to school with a new schedule, or sending kids back to school, or prepping your annual budgets, BoD reports, trying to manage a new sports schedule and have absolutely no way to reasonably prepare for whatever clothes you might need from one day to the next. Spring? Hay fever. Or trying to figure out what to do with all the early CSA and farmers market hauls that are mostly lettuce.
But winter is unique. Along with every Northern Hemisphere mammal, humans are biologically programmed to conserve energy once the darkness begins coming earlier and lingering longer. If we were bears in caves, this might be an amazing time. Eat a ton then sleep for ages? Sign me up. But it can feel kind of awful when, instead of hibernating, you are waking up in the dark, and your neurotransmitters are not relaying your energy and vitality producing hormones quite as robustly. Its colder, sometimes icy, and maybe it is harder to make plans with friends and family. People end up getting more isolated during winter, the darkness driving down motivation and energy. And don’t forget the mixed magic of the holidays that can produce so many overwhelming feelings of anxiety, sadness, frustration even on the best of them.
This experience is common enough that it has become an established clinical diagnosis: Seasonal Affective Disorder. As a subtype of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder can greatly benefit from any evidence-based depression treatment, such as CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. But before you even get to thinking about whether you need to talk to someone, there are a few steps you can take to get yourself ready for the winter-blues.
Now is the perfect time to start pregaming winter, before you get weighed down and your motivation drops. Ask yourself a couple of questions to get started:
· Where are the biggest risks for me, personally, in winter?
· What kind of things have been the most difficult to deal with historically?
· What kind of adjustments might seem really difficult, but also might make a difference?
Next, if you have a history of depression, are experiencing more stress than usual, or are just experiencing anxiety that this year might be harder, this is a great time to find a therapist you click with. You don’t have to wait until you are in a crisis to start developing that relationship. Additionally, consider buying a sunlamp. There are infinite designs and a quick look on Amazon will get you hundreds of options in your price range.
Finally, if the holidays are particularly painful for you, consider giving yourself the gift of new, tailor-made, holiday traditions. If you find it difficult to extract yourself from painful holiday obligations, talk to your therapist about how to manage your anxiety and dread, or even better, why you feel like you can't make helpful adjustments. Don't wa
it until you overwhelmed, or inert with depression or anxiety, to start making adjustments in favor of your own emotional wellness.