DEALING WITH "SAD"
Small, simple tips on how to validate and respond to the experience of Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD.
Hello! My name is Madeline - I am a medical student, the founder and director of the charity Neighbourhood, a fitness instructor and someone who spends a lot of time in their head. I romanticise life often, prescribe deep meaning to most things and find myself wanting to have it all figured out.
My journey with navigating my mental health and understanding my mind has been long and complex; I experienced sexual trauma at the age of 15 and as a result my world had a sad, sepia lens on it for quite sometime. I have spent years in and out of therapy, learning evidence based tips and techniques and taking medication to reestablish balance. I think it’s important to remember that the best therapy is often free, and it is all around us. In nature, coffee with friends, freshly baked cakes and hugs from people you love.
One day I want to practice integrative patient-centred,
trauma-informed medicine that respects and honours
our whole beings - I think as a society we are really
good at recognising and responding to illness but not
as good as working quietly and consistently every day
to keep ourselves well. As our days get shorter and
darker, it’s common that we feel darker, too. Seasonal
Affective Disorder is a common and valid mood disorder that affects many of us when the seasons change. There is less sun, fewer social opportunities and life feels a little heavier.
Reconising the signs of SAD and responding to it are important - and I encourage you to spend some time looking it up, chatting to your GP, or, you are welcome to send me a message. There is a quote that says;
“the irony of loneliness is that we all feel it” - and I think it is really powerful to apply that to a mental health context. Mental illness and mood changes often make us feel alienated from our friends, family, ourselves and our own bodies. But we are all here -suffering, enduring, healing and holding onto hope. There are (almost) 8 billion people on this planet and we all have our stories. We’ve all hurt, hardened, lost, won, softened and succeeded. You are never alone in how you feel. And the journey to peace is far kinder when we reach out and walk it together.
SMALL, SIMPLE TIPS TO LET IN THE LIGHT WHEN THE DAYS ARE DARK
01- Commemorate & Celebrate the Seasons. Everything is transient. This moment now is fleeting. If you struggle with the cold, know that it is only ever temporary. This Autumn I have I found myself being extra present in the seasonal shift. On my walks, I look out for the fiery red leaves and take conscious breaths of the crisper air. I am observant and admiring of the seasonal flux that all living beings, including myself, must journey through.
02- I change how I move my body. When I'm cold I naturally move slower and feel less motivated to achieve my HIIT workouts and train as often as I do in summer. It's important to understand and validate that it's near impossible to work at the same intensity year-round, periods of rest are critical for any sustainable lifestyle. I choose more walks and gentle modes of movement like yoga - I adore yoga with Adrienne on YouTube for the days when it's too hard to leave the house.
03- I brighten up my living space with colour - think flowers, candle holders and art! Where possible opt for locally sourced, second hand or DIY projects to maximise the warm fuzzies and minimise your footprint.
04- Food is mood! It's more important than ever to eat well to feel well in the winter months. Less sun, exercise and more stress can lead to less energy, endorphins and critical vitamins that we need to thrive and feel happy. Think dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, oily fish and citrus to keep you topped up
05- Invite your favourite people around for rugged-up garden picnics in the ounces of winter sun - it's very Swedish to worship the winter sun like this! " 'hygge' is about taking time away from the daily rush to be together with people you care about - or even by yourself - to relax and enjoy life's quieter pleasures." | adore the concept of allowing winter to be a signpost to shift into a slower, softer mode of socialising.
06- Grow a winter garden - longevity + positive well-being are directly correlated with garden ownership and involvement. Right now I'm growing lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, spinach and rubber beans. Budget-friendly & soul-fulfilling!
07- Clear out your home. Have a deep, deep clean. Seasonal transitions are a metaphorical and literal shift and a time to release, let go and create space for the new. Plus, there are many people in need of warm winter clothing that would be so grateful for the treasures taking up space in your wardrobe!
O8- Last but not least! Spend even more quality time with people that you love. Call home often. Make homemade gifts and drop them over to your friends. Write postcards to your parents or people you haven't heard from for a while.
Remember, everyone finds this season tough, too. Check-in on yourself, check in on others - and don't stop doing it.
Our Director Madeline had a chat with @everydaysolitude who wrote and published this piece. Check their Instagram out for All things mental health and human connection!!