Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a type of depression that occurs in the late fall and early winter that goes away in the spring and summer months. I was diagnosed with SAD shortly after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In past years, it was extremely challenging, but over the years I’ve learned how to take care of myself in the late fall and winter. Here are three ways I combat seasonal affective disorder:
1. Keeping Busy
Staying busy is vital for me all year, but especially during the fall and winter. I have a natural tendency to want to withdraw during this time of year, but this year was different because I had obligations that kept me busy. I work as a houseparent in a foster home, and my duties don’t go away just because there are fewer daylight hours. November 2018 was my first anniversary at my job. The year was hard, but I felt like I was growing both personally and professionally. I didn’t want the connections and reputation that I’d built throughout my first year to go down the drain because of a disorder, so I worked extra hard to keep myself busy and in good spirits.
I also make sure to get plenty of sunlight early in the day because the sun goes down earlier. Sunlight is vital for someone with seasonal affective disorder because when there’s less sunlight, the body produces less serotonin. A deficit in serotonin can lead to a decrease in mood, sleep, appetite, and memory. Some mental healthcare professionals suggest the use of light boxes, but I’ve never used one because it can cause mania in people with bipolar disorder. I’m not opposed to light boxes, I just do everything I can to avoid even the possibility of mania.
3. Staying connected.
During the cold months, I naturally want to stay in and sleep and eat more than usual. This winter, I have not fallen victim to that desire by staying connected to friends, family, and co-workers. In my family, we have a tradition of going out to dinner for everyone’s birthdays, and there are quite a few birthdays in during the fall and winter, so I’ve been attending all birthday events. It allows me to stay connected to everyone and keeps the winter blues at bay. These events prevent isolation.