“I’m not sure why you don’t just focus on the pros, Mom,” my ever-wise ten-year-old said to me. “I mean– we live in New England! Fall is awesome in New England! And soon it’ll be Halloween, which is so fun, and then Thanksgiving when, face it, I get to eat tons of challah and turkey. And, after that? Christmas! It’s great!”
He has a point.
Of course he does.
I mean, really, it’s simply gorgeous out there. And don’t I point out to my children on a daily basis how stunning the trees are becoming? Don’t I breathe in deep gulps of cool autumn air each time I step outside? Don’t I snuggle into a thick blanket while allowing the window to let in bracing, chilly breezes each night?
My stomach twists in knots with each passing day.
Each week I drive home from karate, I have to force myself not to cry.
The light is waning, my friends, and I feel the weight.
If you’ve never dealt with the effects of SAD, those of us who do might seem slightly nuts to you. You might wonder why, as my son said, we don’t just focus on the positive and stop fretting about the silly light to dark ratio. I mean, who cares, right? To everything there is a season and all that.
But telling someone who suffers from SAD to just “cheer up” is akin to telling someone with anorexia to just “eat something already.” It just doesn’t work that way.
And so, dear ones, if, like me, this time of year is kind of hard for you. If you’re noticing the earlier and earlier sunsets and flat dreading the arrival of the time change in a few weeks, please know you’re not alone. You’re not crazy. And it doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate the season– you just miss the light. And, for some of us? That’s normal.
Here are a few reminders of things that might help you to feel a bit better as we face ever-shortening days in the next couple of months:
Get plenty of vitamin D and B. These vitamins really help support energy and can help you feel better.
Get outside. Getting out into the light every day you can will really help, both physically and psychologically.
Exercise. Resist the urge to hibernate. Exercising releases natural endorphins that can help you feel more upbeat.
Smell– and drink– citrus. Orange, lemon, tangerine, and lime– these are all uplifting scents and flavors.
Tell people how you’re feeling. You’d be surprised how many people deal with SAD to some degree or another. For a long time, since I wasn’t really “clinical”, I ignored my feelings and thought I was just dumb and weak. Talking about it has really, really helped me see that I’m not alone. Even those who don’t share my sensitivity to changes in light have been very supportive and kind. That helps immensely.
Finally, consider planning a Winter Solstice celebration of some kind. While it is, indeed, the shortest day of the year, it also marks the shift to the days growing longer… and that’s definitely not anything to be SAD about.