True North Blog – The Dark Days…
What a treat it was to have a few warm days as we were just embarking on this new decade. But as those few days slipped through our non-mittened fingertips, the cold air ensued again, reminding us that cold, dark months are still upon us.
Yes, the winter solstice has passed and the days are getting longer, but somehow waking up in the dark and getting out of work right at sunset makes me want to get under the covers and hibernate until the daffodils deem it worthy to make an appearance. This feeling was even more prevalent when I never saw the light of day (literally) in my apartment during my work commute as a Bostonian.
When living in New England, I was always surprised how many friends and coworkers would take vacations in the winter months, after the holidays. Why not save it for the summer? I always wondered this, since our family vacation included a fully loaded car screaming OBX OR BUST to any outsider looking in as we cruised down to Duck, NC for a week every August.
As I asked the question to my Yankee friends why they took vacations January – March, and I came to realize it wasn’t only me who felt like going inward was the only way to make it through the winter… Being SAD wasn’t just happening to me in the winter months, but it affected a lot of people surrounding me. Please don’t be mistaken, we’re talking about SAD (seasonal affective disorder) not sad, although they can feel one in the same.
SAD is a seasonal mood disorder. The Mayo Clinic characterizes this disorder by depression that occurs at the same time every year. Over 3 million cases are reported per year in the US, so this condition is very common. It is self-diagnosable and symptoms include social withdrawal, depression, fatigue, and hopelessness. Hence why the dark days are still upon us since, altering a line from Game of Thrones, winter is still coming.
So, the real question is, what can we do to avoid spiraling into a rougher place over the winter months? If your symptoms aren’t severe, there are some adjustments WebMD recommends that can boost your mood.
- See the sun. Try to make time during lunch to take a walk outside or open those blinds and sit by the window – this is a time that maybe getting a few UV rays can actually be helpful. If that isn’t viable during your workday, try purchasing a UV light that you can sit in front of and/or take Vitamin D pills.
- Walk it out. Exercising for 30 minutes 3 times a week as well as yoga, breathwork, and meditation can reduce stress and anxiety and boost your mood.
- Hello vacation. Although this may be far fetched based on kids schedule and finances, but see if you can swing a vacation to somewhere sunnier and warmer.
- Don’t go dormant. As much as all the parents with young kids out there would love to disagree with me, don’t get too much sleep. Try not to get more than 7-9 hours of sleep a night so you can spend more hours awake when the sun is out.
For more severe cases, please consult a professional who may recommend light therapy, medication, and/or talk therapy. They can work with you to create a treatment plan to get you through this difficult season.
It is amazing that when we listen to our bodies it is possible to make adjustments that have a positive impact on us. So, as I wait for those daffodils to start sprouting, I’m going to be disciplined during these shorter, colder days. You’ll find me running in Bryan Park, doing yoga and meditation at True North, taking walks while the sun is out, and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll make my way down to Florida to get some sunny days to help offset the dark ones.