How to recognize it and when it’s more than meets the eye.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is defined as a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year.
Generally this occurs when the sun starts setting sooner, the weather gets colder, and activities slow down. Some even feel the effects during the holiday season as they may be single or having family issues or a traumatic memory. There are many reasons for it, but the results are similar and it is something not to take lightly.
There are all of these amazing yummy foods and drinks surrounding us during this season. I feel you when you look at that amazing dessert tray and want to sample every single thing. Somehow that delicious food will help us forget not showing up with a date or what the credit card bill will look like next month. Family are telling us to try their homemade pie after we’ve had a third piece! I’m not sure about you, but I’ve had folks almost shove food into my face to try their dish. After the party is over, we go home to silence with food and drinks. Well, we both know where that goes.
Turn to the online world of Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook and we still are overwhelmed with this false sense of joy. Filters, selfies, and apps show the best moments but seem to leave out the chaos or heartache.
So how do we climb out of this spiral?
It is possible to rise above and the answer may surprise you. For years I’ve been single living in a situation that wasn’t very social. Many years were spent isolated in rural Vermont, unable to even go to the grocery store for lack of a car. It took all that I had to make it through.
The last couple of years I’ve been involved with an amazing man who lives….in Brazil. Yep, long distance. We are planning on getting married in the spring, but hopefully for the last holiday, I will spend it alone. Now after many years on my own, I have found ways of not gaining 30 pounds while crying in my pumpkin pie.
The first thing I discovered is skip the sugar.
Sugar triggers brain chemistry to give a false sense of happiness. That is one major reason it is so addictive. The more we eat, the happier we feel but the harder we crash. The more sugar, the more crashes. I found that if I stick to low sugar treats or no treats that my mood stays balanced. Generally many gatherings have an abundance of fruits and nuts. If the sweet tooth beckons, I find dark chocolate which is not only tasty but helps keep me healthy.
Then I avoid a lot of social media or shopping areas.
These areas are wanting money and attention. Most people on social media mean no harm in posting those happy photos. They are more posted as a reminder for family or friends at a distance or to remember a moment. Unfortunately, they are also triggers for anxiety/depression. Google has a lot of information about this and I encourage you to read a little about it from reliable sources like the Mayo Clinic. Shopping areas are selling products to imitate happiness. AVOID.
Finally, I find healthy directions.
If I will be alone, I ask around to see if anyone wants company. Most events with families have enough for an extra plate and would love love love someone to tell all of their old stories to. Homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and churches usually have openings to volunteer your time. You can often get a free meal out of it as well. If these are not possible, read a book or rent a movie. Having a game plan is key rather than being aimless and worrisome of what to do.
I found that giving is so much more satisfying than getting so whether or not I have something going on, I give what I can. Being a secret Santa or taking a name off a giving tree fills me with such joy because I have been on the receiving end.
What if it’s more than seasonal affective disorder?
Even if we have a game plan or have family plans, being sad is perfectly normal and healthy. I am a crying kinda lady, this goes way back. Many times I was told not to cry, but found that crying helps my emotions balance out like a release valve. If I keep the emotions in, my health is affected in bad ways. If I am verbal about being mad or sad or depressed and cry, I can cope with life once more.
I am very lucky and blessed not to suffer from a mental illness. However, friends and family of mine do suffer. Holidays can be a real trigger. Please be aware of signs not only with yourself, but with others around you that may need professional help. Find a trained psychologist to diagnose these symptoms and find a way to resolve them or treat them. Untreated mental illness can be truly terrible not only for the person, but those who love them.
IF YOU FEEL SUICIDAL THERE IS HELP! In the USA, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
As I get ready for this holiday, planning a wedding with my fiancé, and getting ready for the myriad of life changes, I will face it with a smile…..and dark chocolate!