From Sun Lover to Cold Survivor: Tips from a Therapist
You know, I probably belong to the minority when it comes to preferring summer over fall and winter. I live in the South, and this summer was scorching, but let me tell you: I am a summer enthusiast through and through. I love the warmth, the sun, beach trips, and late-evening sunsets. I love catching up with friends and family at cookouts over cold drinks. I love the respite that comes with entering a cool, air-conditioned building. I was even at the pool in September, chasing the last moments of summer. Maybe it’s because I was born in July (although no scientific evidence supports that). Nevertheless, there’s a reason I’ve come to dread the inevitable transition to colder weather. I experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
As an African-American female therapist, I’ve learned that the combination of cultural identity and seasonal depression can make this time of year particularly challenging for me and many others. If you read my previous blog, you know I’ve struggled with admitting I need help. For a while, I didn’t even realize I had seasonal depression. I often thought I was lazy or just didn’t want to do anything because it was too cold outside. The struggle with seasonal blues is real, and I experience it every year. If you’re the type to hibernate during the colder months and wait for spring, keep reading to learn how to prepare for and cope with the winter blues.
First, it’s crucial to identify our triggers. Does the sun setting at 5 pm and the lack of sunlight make you feel tired? Are you stressed about the upcoming holiday season and nervous about difficult family dynamics? Does the holiday season remind you of loss or bring feelings of loneliness? Are you worried about finances and trying to afford gifts or travel for the season? Understanding the triggers of your seasonal depression is the first step in finding effective coping strategies.
Ask yourself, “What makes me feel better?” Is it lighting a new fall or winter-scented candle while cooking a comforting meal? Is it taking a warm bath with a cup of tea while reading a book? Is it snuggling up in your cozy PJs and watching a movie with a loved one? Think about what will help fill your cup and energize you for the colder days ahead.
Light therapy, or phototherapy, involves using a specialized lightbox that mimics natural sunlight. This can be highly effective in treating seasonal depression by regulating your body’s internal clock and mood. I like to use mine in the morning when I’m getting ready. Combining it with meditation or a devotional helps me start the day in a better mindset.
Prioritizing Physical Health
Let’s discuss self-love through physical activity and nutritious meals! Winter may tempt us to hibernate, but staying active, enjoying nourishing food, and getting enough rest are acts of self-love that can combat SAD during the winter blues. Make time for a walk and relish the changing leaves, or prepare a pot of warm, comforting soup.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Have you tried mindfulness? It’s like a spa day for your mind. Countless resources can help you practice meditation, such as the Calm app or YouTube. Taking a few moments each day to breathe, center yourself, and practice gratitude is a small investment with significant returns. During your walk, pay attention to your surroundings and appreciate the beauty in the changing seasons. Practice gratitude for the opportunity to experience yourself and the world from a different perspective.
Building a Support System
We all need our tribe, right? For me, it’s about reaching out to those who can help lift me out of the funk I can easily get caught up in. Staying connected with friends, family, or community members who bring a smile to your face or offer comfort during difficult times is essential during this season. I have a tendency to isolate myself in the warmth of my home, so scheduling regular hangout sessions and engaging in active pursuits is vital to keep my seasonal depression at bay.
Seeking Professional Help
It’s no surprise that therapy is on this list. Therapy can provide support throughout different seasons of our lives, including fall and winter. Sometimes, we need guidance to navigate the challenges of the winter season and process the triggers that affect our depression. If you believe you could benefit from speaking with someone during this season, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Creative Family Counseling and Coaching. My colleagues and I are ready to assist you.
So, my friends, we can either resist the inevitable change of seasons or learn to embrace the winter months ahead. By understanding the interplay between ourselves and seasonal shifts and incorporating self-care practices into our daily routine, we can face the colder months with strength and grace. Remember, you’re not alone. Let’s navigate this journey together, finding the light within ourselves even during the darkest of seasons. Winter, we’re prepared for you!
Written by Hope Nicely, APC, NCC