Last week saw Halloween finally leave my life and with it last hope that we might still be in the summer months. To be honest, I’ve been in denial since about mid September when I started waking up for work and it was already dark. My body lives for the summer months so it’s always a kick in the gut when it disappears and the darker nights or mornings start rolling in.
I’m a summer baby and, because of this, I think I’ve always struggled with the winter months. For as long as I remember, I’ve always felt groggy from September through to March and I guess it wasn’t until I was an adult that I had a name to describe or explain why.
This year, however, it hit me even harder than usual and a lot more suddenly too. Usually, I can cope until the end of January before I really start feeling extra blue around these parts but, this year, one day I was feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning and the next I wasn’t. I feel like the darkness crept up on me a lot quicker this year than it usually does and it’s safe to say the hit didn’t go a miss when it comes to my mental health.
That being said, I’ve thought carefully about how I’ve helped manage SAD over the past few years and thought I’d write them down as a) a reference point for myself when I inevitably get caught up in everything and forget and b) it might prove useful for someone else.
Listen to your body
Sounds simple and obvious, right? However, I think when it comes to mental health and SAD it’s probably the one thing we are most likely to forget. I am all for powering through and hoping that things will get better but, sadly, that’s not life and sometimes it doesn’t work like that.
So, as often as I can, I try and take a step back and listen to exactly what my body thinks it needs. A day watching Netflix? Done. A 3 hour phone call with a friend you miss? Done. A day in bed just staring into space? Done. A day out with your gal pals shopping? Done. Your body knows what it needs deep down and it’s not trying to tell you just to be annoying.
As much as I love sitting in all evening and weekend, binge watching TV and eating my body weight in Treeslets, claiming that ‘I’m listening to my body’, I also know that it’s a big lie. Therefore, I try and make a few plans a month that I know I’ll have to go to. For example, every year my room mate and I have a traditional Christmas party that the same friends each year come to.
As well as this, if I wake up feeling in a certain ‘bad place’ I try to get out the house, even if it’s only for an hour. This could be anything from popping up to the pub for lunch, going for a walk or dropping in on a friend to say hello.
Talk to people
As the years have gone I’ve got better and better at being open about how I’m feeling. Go back about 5 years and you needed a book, a psychic with a crystal ball and the long, lost key to try and figure out how I was feeling or what was going on in my head. Now? Now I talk about it. A lot.
Obviously, I don’t go down the high street shouting how I’m feeling (okay, I’ve actually been known to do this) but I do try and talk things through with those who know me best and I’m closest to. I’d be lying if I said that this hasn’t significantly improved my ability to articulate how I feel, because it definitely has. I might not have the right words but I’ve been able to find a big enough voice that those around me feel empowered by how they’re feeling and want to follow in my footsteps.
Re-evaluate, rest & revive
When things are feeling particularly bleak, I’ve found it’s really important to take a step back, think about what is causing the problems: re-evaluate, rest and revive.
We’re humans so we’re naturally quite self critical and naturally look back. So, put it to good use. When you’re feeling particularly miserably, take the time out to figure out what it is that’s making you feel that way, re-evaluating its purpose. If it’s not worth your time, get rid; if it is, fix it so it’s not causing you to feel how you are. From there, give yourself time to rest and eventually revive how you’re feeling. You’ll come back even better than you were before.
When in doubt, chuck it out
There is nothing that makes me feel better than a good clean out, especially when I’m feeling rocky. I guess, in a way, when I can’t control my mood, I do anything I can to try and find something I can control. 9 times out of 10, this is the environment I’m in.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a small tidy up that turned into me hauling six bin bangs worth of stuff to a charity shop. It turns out that my mantra of 2017 has been when in doubt, chuck it out.
What are your top tips for coping with SAD, mental health moments or general down days?