'Tis the season for... SAD syndrome

Jemima

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Hi all,

I don't know about you, but I have a struggle every year to keep seasonal affective disorder (SAD syndrome) at bay. The winter is my most vulnerable period for falling into a deep depression, and I often have a huge crash right after Christmas. Last year, that was also the time when I had a huge fibro flare that lasted about 6 weeks. Fair to say that I was a total mess! It can take a lot of effort to recover when getting so low, so obviously I'd rather avoid it.

So, this year, now that the days are already getting shorter, I'm going to set the intention to do more to keep those winter blues at bay. I'm going to be paying extra attention to exercise, nutrition, and getting out into daylight for a little while first thing in the morning and after lunch - no matter the weather! Recently, we've had a lot going on and some of my usual self-protective habits had started to slide. That makes this is a good moment to course correct, and try to get through this cold season unscathed!

If anyone has any tips to share on how they safeguard their sanity through the winter, I'd love to hear them. Similarly, if you wrestle with the same issues, it'd be lovely to touch base - so we can know we're not going into battle alone! ☃️
 

sunkacola

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I tried huge banks of natural lighting lamps at one time but it didn't really help. I lived where the sun almost never shone, it seemed, and there was so much rain that nothing ever dried out. I hated it. My solution was to move to a place where the sun shines about 330 days of the year!

I completely sympathize with your experiencing SAD. It's awful. Honestly, I thought by January every year I was almost going to slit my wrists. Moving to a sunny place took care of it all and I have felt so much better during the winter...in fact. I like winter a lot now. Maybe you cannot move....but if you could, I would recommend it.

If it is not the lack of light that is affecting you, then I think getting out in the outdoors is a good idea, for as much time as you can manage. If christmas triggers off something, then I would suggest you make the season as stress-free as possible. Just for one year (just to try it out), don't travel to see family or friends. Stay home and have a very light, very simple christmas. No decorating, (unless it brings you joy to do it) no big fancy meal, (ditto) ... just whatever you want to do on that day with your partner. The lowest stress possible. No big commitments to parties or to any other thing. Explain to everyone that it's just for this year, because you need to try it out.

If it helps, you can set up a new thing for following years that keeps the outside and inside stress as low as possible in various ways.
I don't do christmas myself, as it is not my religion, but I see it causing huge levels of stress for everyone around me who does celebrate it.
 

Jemima

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I adore Christmas, as something of a default setting - kind of unavoidable, because my birthday is Christmas day! When I was a kid, I used to pretend all the Christmas trees were for me.

It's funny, in England celebrating Christmas and religion are not mutually exclusive. The holiday is also very intermingled with the Northern Europe's ancient pagan celebrations.

I think the reason I tend to crash after the holidays is that I use them as an emotional anchor as the winter sets in, so once they're done, it's just the cold hard slog until spring!

I moved from the UK to Portugal, so already have vastly more sunshine in my life than before. At this point, we're pretty stuck where we are, so I don't think there'll be another move on the cards.

It's really interesting that you didn't get anywhere with the SAD lights. It's something I was thinking about trying this year, but still felt uncertain about. I'm sure this is to do with the length of the days for me, but that makes me think that the best course is definitely to focus on trying to get outside more regularly for the real deal. Maybe that will help, plus keeping stress levels low as you say.

Feeling vulnerable to depression is scary - it's like looking into the abyss. But, fingers crossed this year won't be so bad. If it is, have survived it before - will do it again!
 

sunkacola

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Jemima, I fully understand what you are saying about feeling vulnerable to depression, and the abyss. I live somewhere now that most people love winter and are not fond of summer. Winter is nicer weather here, more suitable for outdoor activities, so I don't get winter blues or worse depressions in the winter any more, but I sure do know what they are like, and I fully understand depression in general. If you want someone to talk to or understand what you are going through, I am here for you. Hugs.
 

sunkacola

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I appreciate that! Makes me feel optimistic to hear of your success :)
Oh, I don't think I have any success to report. I am a person with a major depression disorder and I get very depressed, sometimes for long periods of time. But when I lived in a place where it rained all of the time I would go without seeing the sun for weeks at a time, and every single winter I would get horribly depressed because I wouldn't see the sun for months, only low dark clouds.

When I moved to a place where it is sunny almost all of the time, it changed that and I no longer know that I will be depressed every winter, because in the winter it's sunny here. It only rains in the summer here, and it is welcomed then. And even so, most days you still see the sun for part of the day. I think I really need the light because I grew up in a place that was terribly cold, but very sunny, and so I grew to love sunshine and depend on it. And I always have as much light in my house as possible from outside. Actually, summers are harder for me until the rains come because you can't have all your windows and curtains open or you will make the house too hot. It gets very warm here!

These days, living here, I still get depressed but it's not caused inevitably by the seasons any longer.
 

Auriel

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I’m season effective , I used to get dangerously depressed when I was younger around the darker months + the time of my birthday (which is winter) I was supposed to be born Christmas Day but I popped out too early ( and too small) s.a.d is a real thing, but I’m betting there’s people out there who think it’s not, what are Portuguese winters like? 💜💛💜
 

Jemima

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Oh, I don't think I have any success to report. I am a person with a major depression disorder and I get very depressed, sometimes for long periods of time. But when I lived in a place where it rained all of the time I would go without seeing the sun for weeks at a time, and every single winter I would get horribly depressed because I wouldn't see the sun for months, only low dark clouds.

When I moved to a place where it is sunny almost all of the time, it changed that and I no longer know that I will be depressed every winter, because in the winter it's sunny here. It only rains in the summer here, and it is welcomed then. And even so, most days you still see the sun for part of the day. I think I really need the light because I grew up in a place that was terribly cold, but very sunny, and so I grew to love sunshine and depend on it. And I always have as much light in my house as possible from outside. Actually, summers are harder for me until the rains come because you can't have all your windows and curtains open or you will make the house too hot. It gets very warm here!

These days, living here, I still get depressed but it's not caused inevitably by the seasons any longer.
I suppose I meant success as a relative term. Those of us who battle with this tend to carry it all the time, but it's nice to have the sense that an old pattern can at least shift if we give ourselves the right stimuli. Otherwise, we can feel as if we're on rails, which is very disempowering. I struggle too with the excessive heat - it usually hits 110ºF here in high summer, sometimes higher. Always a juggle!
 

Jemima

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I’m season effective , I used to get dangerously depressed when I was younger around the darker months + the time of my birthday (which is winter) I was supposed to be born Christmas Day but I popped out too early ( and too small) s.a.d is a real thing, but I’m betting there’s people out there who think it’s not, what are Portuguese winters like? 💜💛💜
Wow, another winter baby! My sister was due in Jan but was born a full month early in December. I arrived on schedule - my mum went into labour during Christmas dinner!

SAD is so well documented, and makes perfect sense from a chemical perspective, not to mention its clinically recognised internationally. I know that those of us who are prone to depression all year round wouldn't fit the criteria in the DSM 5 for a diagnosis, because those with a SAD diagnosis should see full remission in the brighter months. But the winter always seems to make me more vulnerable to going off the deep end. Being aware of our own vulnerabilities can help us navigate them!

The winter here tends to run about ten degrees warmer than in the UK at night, and can easily be t-shirt weather when the sun shines in the middle of the day in January. We're surrounded by mountain ranges, so when the rain hits here it rains a lot! There's a ski season in the mountains, but it's not cold enough for snow down in this area, so we just get to look up at it. Is it getting cold and wet yet where you are in Wales?
 
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Auriel

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@sunkacola some hugs for you🤗🤗🤗, everyone should have a hug (except crocodiles and sharks cos that’s dangerous ⚠️ never hug those things 😆)
 
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Auriel

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Christmas dinner! That’s so funny! 😂, Portugal sounds lovely and yes it’s getting cold where we are 😰(I’m getting ready for glove buying) and the rain is just dribs and drabs 💝💜💝
 
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Jemima

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@sunacola some hugs for you🤗🤗🤗, everyone should have a hug (Expect crocodiles and sharks cos that’s dangerous ⚠️ never hug those things 😆)
Well said, and all those sentiments right back at you both :giggle:

Christmas dinner! That’s so funny! 😂, Portugal sounds lovely and yes it’s getting cold where we are 😰(I’m getting ready for glove buying) and the rain is just drabs and drabs 💝💜💝
Awww, well, stay bundled up warm as much as you can. I don't miss that kind of weather!
 
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