The long winter days can be challenging. We may get up in the dark and come home in the dark. Light seems in short supply and if you add the cold, rain or snow, it can be the recipe for sadness and depression. After the glow of Summer and December seasonal activity, the dark days of January and February can seem endless.
For some, this gloom creeps up slowly and sets in to become what is diagnosed in medical terminology as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Common symptoms include apathy, tiredness, sleepiness and a dark moodiness.
The SAD symptoms can also include weight gain, an increase in eating junk food and less interest in favourite activities. The depressive thinking and symptoms work together to create a vicious cycle of doom and gloom.
The good news is SAD is a treatable condition and you should always consult your doctor or psychologist for assistance if you have these symptoms or feel that you are struggling with depressive thinking. Recent research suggests that a multi-disciplinary approach can be useful in treatment. For those who could use a few strategies to feel more energetic, productive and fulfilled during the long dark days of winter, here are a few life coaching suggestions.
Connection: For someone suffering from depressive symptoms like those found in SAD, asking you to connect and socialize may seem like the worst thing any one can suggest. However, the failure to ‘get out of the house’ and socialize will simply reinforce the darkness and sense of isolation.
Commit to getting out beyond your usual routine or work environment. Start small. Make one social engagement per week. Start or join a book club. Invite a friend to dinner. Volunteer. Join a group. Speak to your neighbour about a neighbourhood activity. The possibilities are endless. Pick something and commit to that ONE thing to start.
Nutrition: Draw up a shopping list for a balanced diet with lots of protein, fruit and vegetables and throw out the bad stuff in your pantry. You already know what that is. Hire a nutritionist to assist you in drawing up a plan, if necessary.
Exercise: Commit to putting on your exercise shoes and walking for ten minutes. Commit to going to the gym, even if only for twenty minutes. Physical activity coaches have proven the hardest part to exercising is lacing up your exercise shoes. Put on those shoes! Most people do more exercise than they thought they would when they were lacing up their shoes.
Combine your exercise commitment with your Connection goal and arrange with another person to get out together or separately. If you choose exercising independently of each other, commit to sending a text message when you have accomplished your chosen exercise.
Accountability: Giving voice to what you are feeling deep inside, as well as being listened to in a non-judgmental environment is cathartic and healing. Make an appointment to speak with a professional. If symptoms are severe and the suggestions here seem impossible, consult your physician or a psychologist.
Another option is to hire a professional coach who can listen to what is transpiring on many levels and help you break down some of the negative patterns, identify saboteurs, delve into your dreams and encourage you to focus on your strengths and goals. You will have in your coach an accountability partner who will accompany you on the journey and hold the light for you when the dark places seem impenetrable.
SAD can seem daunting however it can be overcome. Watch loved ones for symptoms and be the support they may need.