11 things that have helped me with SAD... No.6 Adjusting my expectations. The fact is my capacity shrinks in the winter. It's probably not that unusual and yet sometimes it can feel like defeat not to push myself or 'try harder' to do all the things I feel like I 'should' be able to manage. But that only tends to make things worse if I'm struggling and it's actually more supportive to remove pressure and expectations. In fact it's one of the kindest things summer me can do for winter me - save big decisions and stressful things for summer, don't overfill my diary, don't take on extra work or commitments. Celebrate everyday things - like making the bed or cooking dinner...or getting out of bed 😂
Expectations about what I am able to do or not do play a really big part in my sense of wellbeing. Comparing myself to others isn't helpful but neither is comparing my winter self to my summer self! At this point in the year it sort of sounds a bit dramatic to me but I'm committed to looking out for winter me and I need to listen to my own previous experience and take it seriously.
Grateful ~ yesterday started 'badly', my blind is broken, my room is a mess, I put some washing on Sunday eve and forgot to take it out before I went to bed... Not a great way to start the week. In winter this type of thing floors me. Yesterday I rolled my eyes, thought I'll sort it out later and got on with my day. The difference is becoming less stark as I get further from winter and summer normal sets in but as I reflect I don't take it for granted. Also grateful for a brilliant session training some youth workers, enjoying feeling I have something to offer and some really interesting conversations. Lunch al fresco with colleauguefriends and beaut walk home ☀️☀️☀️
Irritability is one of the hardest symptoms of SAD to deal with for me. I feel prickly and impatient with people and there's a constant stream of criticism and negativity running through my mind. It makes me want to just hide away so I don't 'inflict' myself on people. It's like my mind is my enemy. It's hard when its happening to remember that's not who I really am. It's weird because at the moment I'm ok and it feels like a distanc memory when in reality even a couple of months ago I was struggling.
I've been wondering how I'll feel about this page if/when I get depressed this winter. Will I find it as helpful to look back on as I'm hoping I will? Will I be really annoyed at summer me for putting myself out there? Will I not even care one way or the other?
One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I will find it hard to carry on posting regularly. I might be wrong but experience tells me: doing anything regularly is difficult for me in the winter, being vulnerable is really difficult for me in the winter and being hopeful is REALLY difficult for me in the winter. Even if I don't keep posting through the winter I hope this stuff will remind me I'm not making it up, the feelings will pass and that its ok not to be ok. Maybe we can all remind each other?
I know when spring has arrived, not cos the weather improves (I mean it did but then it didn't, this is the uk after all) but because all of a sudden I had A MILLION ideas and felt like it was entirely possible to achieve them all ok the next 6 months! (On top of a job, an MA, looking for a flat, dating and learning to drive) It's like having a massive sugar rush. And this more than anything is the sign to me that I have flipped from winter me to summer me. Winter me just aims to get through the day, the week, the month, the winter. I can't think about taking on anything extra or being creative. My brain and my body feel sluggish, held back by anxiety and negativity. The simplest things feel like massive achievements - anyone who's struggled with depression knows what I'm saying. In the summer I still get anxious and insecure and sad, those things don't just disappear (I'm not a robot!), they're just much more in balance with joy, spontaneity, lightness and openness to others. And the paranoia gets replaced by possibility and positivity. So I can do things like this! (When I should be writing essays) In both seasons it can be hard to remember what it's like in the other season but I want to be able to look after myself well all year round ☀️🌧❄️
Any other saddos out there?! (I use that word with affection and humour not to offend 😊) I get SAD every year and haven't found much about it online so am learning to look after myself as I go...This is a kind of insta scrap book for winter me. I want my photos to remind me that the winter will pass and I won't always feel like that. And I want the info and words to reassure me I'm not the only one struggling and to ground me in reality when my mind is playing tricks on me.
I hope it might help others to understand SAD a bit and would be lovely to think some might even find it helps them with their own SAD story... Would love to hear from you if that's you! Have discovered so many incredible people on here sharing their struggles and wins, am finding it inspiring, uplifting and hopefilling (which is a sure indication I'm in spring mode as winter me finds it hard to deal with too much positivity, ha)
I've tried 'practising gratitude' in the past and found it actually made me feel worse as I would end up thinking about the things that were wrong and then feel guilty that I couldn't think of anything to be grateful for!
But for some reason this year it was the biggest game changer for me. I tried to make a quick note on my phone at the end of every day of 1 or 2 things I was grateful for. Sometimes I would literally just write one word, other times the words flowed, especially as the days got lighter, I found I was beginning to feel more naturally grateful. I started just aiming for a month of gratitude in January. Then I did February... And now a month has turned into 4 months. I think the habit has stuck - although I'm never quite as disciplined in the summer (that's one thing winter me has over summer me) It's definitely helped me feel less anxious and focus on the good things in my life.
I get pretty much all of these in the winter. Plus super anxious about the future, self-loathing towards myself and irritable with other people. It's really fun as I'm sure you can imagine. Hibernating sort of works for me as long as I can stave off the guilt of feeling like a rubbish friend and the fear about what other people think of me and the shame of admitting I'm struggling. Guilt, fear and shame are the biggest enemies. They stop you getting the support you need and they whisper lies lies lies until you're not sure what's true anymore. Part of what I'm doing here is to fight those lies and to keep reminding myself of the true things.
When I accepted SAD is a thing and started talking about it to other people, i was able to manage it a bit better and take better care of myself. The more I talk to others the more I realise so many people struggle with the change in seasons - especially the winter but know for some it happens in the summer too. I feel like I have 2 completely different normals - a winter me and a summer me. I don't much like winter me so my goal now is to try and make friends with her. These pics are for her, and for anyone else who might find them helpful, come winter.