Disclaimer: I am not a psychiatrist. You should always seek professional help before self-/misdiagnosing.
Today is Daylight Saving (excluding Hawaii and most of Arizona) which is usually the first sign of reality that we are entering the dark and cold months of the year. Though many states have already been experiencing winter-like weather, the addition of early sunsets makes the transition that much more ‘real.’ Even here in Texas, we have spent this past week mostly in the 40s with rain. I have to say, personally, this is my favorite time of the year and I look forward to that extra hour of sleep this day allots. However, I know that many people dread this time of year and even experience seasonal affective disorder, or SAD–aptly named.
According to Psychology Today, “Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of recurrent major depressive disorder in which episodes of depression occur during the same season each year. This condition is sometimes called the “winter blues,” because the most common seasonal pattern is for depressive episodes to appear in the fall or winter and remit in the spring.” On the surface, it appears SAD can affect most people as we receive less daylight in the fall and winter and we all know Vitamin D plays a major role with our energy levels. Even during daylight hours, there are a lot more days of gray skies and unpleasant weather. Despite SAD affecting 10 million Americans, more commonly in women, “to be diagnosed with SAD, an individual must meet criteria for major depression coinciding with specific seasons for at least two years.” Still, many people can have the symptoms or have a mild version of SAD.
Symptoms of SAD when associated with the ‘winter blues’ include:
- Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Thoughts of suicide
- Hypersomnia or a tendency to oversleep
- A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
- Weight gain
- A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- A drop in energy level
- Decreased physical activity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased sensitivity to social rejection
- Avoidance of social situations
Reading those symptoms, you might be thinking, “That just sounds like 2020,” and that’s actually what prompted me to write this post. As we continue to experience this pandemic and now enter flu season, there appears to be this looming threat of things getting worse than they have been. And if we have learned anything from this year, it’s that things can actually get worse when we think they won’t. That doesn’t necessarily mean the year will get worse (let’s not will that into our lives), but let’s decide today to be proactive with our health. We are all fatigued and burned out from the ongoing crises of this year and maybe things going on pre-pandemic. We can barely take care of ourselves much less other people, but it is our duty to ourselves and others to show up. These colder months are going to require more of us to be even more empathetic and emotionally supportive than we have already been.
So if I’m dealing with all of the effects of a pandemic, anxiety about global social issues, ongoing personal issues that existed pre-pandemic, and now I think I have winter blues/SAD…what hope is left for me? Let’s aim to evolve emotionally and stop holding everything in and trying to carry the burden on our own. Additionally, another part of this evolution requires us to recognize when and where we have been consciously or unconsciously taking advantage of others and unloading all of our issues onto them; expending their time and energy to help us solve our problems, and not offering the same level of support back. Relationships are meant to be 50/50 or as close to that as possible. Everyone needs help communicating, opening up, and learning how to recognize unfamiliar emotions, but we can’t use that as a crutch when the people we go to for support need support too. Bluntly put, if this year hasn’t taught you that it’s not all about you and never has been… I guess I’m telling you. BUT it’s never too late to start being a better, more compassionate person to yourself and those around you! Though the pandemic is enough reason to have regular breakdowns and nobody will fault you, people who truly love you would not fault you under whatever we used to consider ‘normal circumstances.’ We all need each other to some degree right now. ❤
It’s been a rough year and unfortunately, the hard truth is that the coming of 2021 is nothing more than symbolism. Coming to terms with the fact that we are entering the time of year where some of us are quite literally going to be stuck indoors (literally due to snow v personal choice), it just seems like we may as well throw in the towel. As one of many people who deals with depression year-round, I know the easy and most comfortable/natural reaction is to retract and isolate yourself because you see yourself as a burden on others. That’s also the most damaging decision to make in the short- and long-term. Call a friend, call a loved one, disconnect from social media, watch your favorite movies from your childhood–anything that brings you a boost of serotonin and helps you feel more sane. I have personally had hesitation reaching out to others because all there is to talk about is negativity going on in the world, but when I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve felt so much better just chatting with the special people in my life. Let’s all do better moving forward and HANG IN THERE.
P.S.: I want to reiterate a final time that not everyone experiences the same or all symptoms of SAD, but if you do experience most of these, seek professional help if you are able ❤