During winter mornings, I hit the snooze button more than usual. The bright lights seeping through the small gap between my blinds and the window ambush me. I close my eyes shut again. I feel like I need more sleep. I’m tired before the day has even started. I wish I had gone to bed early the previous night. I blame myself.
When I finally manage to open my eyes, I spend another half an hour or more flicking through my social media. Sometimes an interesting article catches my eye, and I justify the time spent in bed as research for my writing. By the time I finish reading, I’m not happy with myself, as I would ideally like to embrace my day and take it by its balls. But I can’t.
This is not a good way to start any day.
Seasonal depression is a mood disorder that occurs due to hormonal alterations that arise from the change in seasons when the weather becomes colder and grayer. Decreasing daylight hours during fall and winter marks the beginning of seasonal depression for many.
During this mood shift, taking care of myself is essential to continuing with my work and studies and living as “normally” a life as I can during these months. Here are a few things I try to do regularly to minimize the downturn in my mood. These self-care steps take very little time and therefore are hard to skip even when I’m tired.
1. Go for a 15-minute walk, even when it snows
I have not yet invested in a light therapy box. So, I make it a point to go for a daily walk. I put on my boots and the thousands of layers to keep me warm and go on my walk, come snow or come rain. This is an essential part of my day, as movement is a proven antidote to depression or moodiness.
I love my time outside, and I vary my route based on the weather and the time I make it outside. This is my playtime to walk aimlessly, to think straight and clear my head, or to not think at all and just observe the passing cars or the naked trees. It’s my favorite me-time and more like a walking meditation to me.
2. Take my vitamins
I have to admit that I don’t do this every day, but I try my best. I take vitamin C, D, and cod liver oil tablets to keep me agile and healthy. On the rare occasions that I manage to take my vitamins for a few days straight, I can focus better on my work and start off my days sooner in the morning.
Altering your diet enables you to control symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Adding more SAD-healthy foods to your grocery list can keep you smiling longer.
3. Listen to inspirational playlists every morning
I recently created two morning-playlists on Spotify. One with slow, instrumental music, with tracks mostly from Yanni and Piano Brothers, the other more upbeat and funky, with tracks from Dua Lipa and Sia. Based on my mood as I wake up, I listen to either of these playlists. Sometimes, this gets me out of bed faster, looking forward to the day ahead.
I have an agreement with myself that I will get out of bed before the third song of the playlist hits the airwaves. As music is a medium for processing emotions and music therapy is proven as beneficial for mental health, my playlists lift my mood more often than not.
4. Take a day off every week
Sunday is my day of Sabbath every week. I don’t perform any hustling activities like looking for new clients, submitting pitches to publications, doing online courses, or applying for jobs. I also refrain from admin activities like budgeting, calling the bank, and filing tax forms.
If I feel like it, I may write on Sunday. I mostly spend my Sundays reading fiction, learning about life, meditating, dreaming, staring outside the window, or taking long walks. I may think about the coming week and set some weekly goals if it’s not too stressful. This day of rest calms me down and lets me start the week from a place of good vibes.
5. Check the weather forecast every night
One of the things I hate about this season is its dark, gray days. Who feels like waking up in the morning when it looks like dusk outside? To deal with this, I try to set expectations for myself. When I check the weather forecast every night, I know what to expect the next morning. The gray day doesn’t catch me by surprise, as I know this in advance, and I mentally look forward to something else instead of a bright, sunny day.
6. Water my orchid plant
I have never been one for gardening, as I have always believed that I’m not capable of taking care of another living thing. But a friend recently gifted me a small, white orchid plant. I challenged myself to take care of the plant by watering it every week or so.
In the beginning, I missed a few weeks, and one branch of the plant withered away. But then I came back strong, and now there are eight flowers and three more buds blooming. This is a proud moment for me. Every time I see this flourishing plant on my living room windowsill, I’m convinced that I can take care of myself and make myself also flourish this winter.
7. Rub my feet every night
A foot massage can activate your nervous system and improve circulation. Rubbing my feet using a few concentrated strokes before bed stimulates the nerve endings in my feet and eases my fatigued feet. It takes less than five minutes, but I feel like a queen after the rub.
On some days, I use oil or cream and give myself an extended foot massage, mimicking my reflexologist as best as I can. This relaxes me every night, and I sleep better with fewer freaky dreams and insomnia episodes.
8. Infuse bits of festivity and laughter into my day
Finally, I try my best to brighten up my days using little tips and tricks. I made Christmas cocktails using a mint liqueur and Baileys during the festive season. I change my laptop wallpaper often to force a change of online scenery. I also watch short, funny videos on YouTube or BuzzFeed daily. Sometimes, I watch stand up comedy during the lunch hour.
Laughter has many physical and mental benefits, and I come away from a funny video feeling better after a gut-shaking laugh. It is almost impossible to feel sad or tired right after watching a really funny video.
Above all, I try my best to go easy on myself. If I splurge on fast food one night, I let go of it without feeling guilty. If I feel tired during the day, I take a nap without judging myself for it, knowing that I need to give my body what it wants, especially during this blue season.
If your symptoms are aggravating or your SAD has a debilitating impact on your days, please take good care of yourself by seeking professional help.