Chin Up Until Sun Up (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

This time of year sucks for many of us. Cold, short, and dreary days mean that it’s hard to feel positive, or (sometimes) little more than apathetic. It’s depressing when the whole world seems to be hibernating, but they expect you to keep up your “chipper”. Not fair.

Each year, around this time, I start to withdraw. I want to sleep, eat, and surf the Internet. This year is especially hard, because I’m working 6+ days a week. Happily, Jenny and I have worked out some things to help me keep my head up. Here are some of the things we have found to work.

  • Wake up lighting. These lights increase in brightness over time, helping the body wake up naturally. This is great for me, because I tend to sleep until my body feels like it is “daytime”.
  • Music. Playing music on my iPod overnight helps me sleep deeper, allowing me to rest deeply. This is critical if I’m going to use lighting options, because I need to have had enough rest in order to wake up naturally.
  • Schedules and routine. Going to bed at the same time, and waking up at the same time allows our bodies to fall into a natural cycle. This one is hard for me, because my work hours vary so much.
  • Quiet/silent alarms. I love using my Fitbit alarm. No jarring sound, just a little vibration on my wrist. Jenny hates it for herself. I love it. The Fitbit also has a sleep tracker built into it, so this option allows you to identify if/when you are restless in the night.
  • Adequate lighting throughout the day, and into the evening. We string up Christmas lights around tall cabinets, and near the ceiling. These bulbs provide warm and bright light to the environment. We put them on a schedule, so we don’t have to remember to turn them on and off.
  • Sitting near the windows. Seriously, this helps. Sit next to a window, and the sun gets a little more action on your skin. This helps provide much-needed Vitamin D. It also warms your skin, improving bloodflow. It also stimulates your brain via your eyes, helping you to feel alert.
  • Supplements. I started to take Vitamin D (after consulting with my doctor), which helped my apathy. I also added Vitamin C, and a multi-vitamin.
  • Plants. I tend my bonsai, and grow moss and grass inside the house in the winter. The grass is for the cats, and the moss is for the bonsai. Monitoring the bonsai brings me joy, and tells my brain that not everything is dead in the winter. Bonus? The fresh oxygen in the house helps everyone breath better.

None of these are perfect. Each of them takes its own effort, but they all compliment each other, bringing positive feelings to my day. What makes you feel better in the winter? Feel free to comment here, or on Facebook!

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