Coping with SAD

Fall is undeniably one of the most beautiful times of the year, but for someone like me, who suffers from Season Affective Disorder, it’s also one of the most difficult. As the days become shorter and the temperature drops, I begin to feel sad, tired, and lack motivation to do even the simplest of things, like getting out of bed or dressing nicely. It’s because of this that the majority of my winter clothing comprises of sweats.

I began struggling with SAD when I was in the eighth grade. Although it’s been five years since I hit my lowest weight, four since my first hospital admission, and three since I was finally able to commit to recovery, many of the bad memories I associate with fall are so vivid, they might as well have happened yesterday. And while there are still times when I feel overwhelmed or lose hopeas the years progressed, I’ve discovered several coping mechanisms in order to prevent SAD from derailing my recovery:

1. My lightbox. Lightboxes mimic sunlight to evoke a chemical change in my brain, which lifts my mood and alleviates other symptoms brought on by SAD. I usually spend ten-to-fifteen minutes under my lightbox while I eat breakfast. The morning is the best time, as lightboxes can disrupt sleep if they’re used too late in the day.

2. Focusing on the positive. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s easy to forget the progress I’ve made when I’m down. That’s why, whenever I feel my mood beginning to dip, I take a moment to reflect on how far I’ve come over the past few years and another to remind myself of how shitty it would be to return to that dark, miserable place.

3. Being with people. For me, nighttime is when my depression is the most intense. That’s why in the evening, I hang out in a central location or watch TV with my family until I’m psychically and mentally exhausted. That way, when I crawl into my bed, I don’t have the energy to think negative thoughts or remember unpleasant times.

4. Doing fun stuff. It’s really easy when I’m feeling down to lack motivation to do much of anything. I used to sleep to escape the pain, but now I force myself to engage in activities that bring me joy, like board games or funny YouTube videos or playing with my cats.

5. Putting my health first. This should be a no-brainer, but for many people (including myself) it’s easy to get caught up in the constant hubbub of school, work, sports, etc. That said, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that nothing else matters when I’m not well. 

Remember; how you let SAD affect you is (mostly) in your hands. There are dozens of other coping skills I didn’t mention, but in order for them to work, you must commit to using them every day as best you can. YOU have the power.

If you think you have SAD or want to learn more, click here

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