HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE (WEEK 1): SAD & ALIVE
The Holiday Survival Guide is your guide to surviving the season of holidays, plummeting temperatures, SAD, and, well, the inevitability of politics coming up at the dinner table. Consider this your handy dandy reference for what to do, and how to recover. And, perhaps how to even actually enjoy this upcoming holiday season. Stay tuned for more on our upcoming monthly workshop series! (hint: the first one is *all* about preppin’ for holiday season).
I don’t know about you, but as the wintery weather begins to settle in and the awkwardness of Thanksgiving dinner table small talk with some distant cousin looms, my energy levels take a nosedive. I daydream of switching places with a Grizzly because hibernation honestly sounds great. Like the reaching trees outside of my window, I lose all of my glorious foliage and am replaced with a gnarled, craggly, and cold version of myself.
Okay, okay, I’m kidding. Mostly. What *actually* happens is a little more subtle and a lot more infused with meaning.
WHAT IS SAD?
First up in our Holiday Survival Guide is SAD. What is SAD? Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression that is correlated to the seasons. For most people, SAD comes in heavy in the winter. Although SAD is associated with changing seasons, the symptoms of it and depression are largely the same. We might feel hopeless, empty, sluggish, and have low energy. We might also feel anxious, agitated, irritable and think more about death or suicide.
While all of this can be deeply uncomfortable and distressing for us, it’s a very normal human experience.
It also makes some degree of sense, right? The days are shorter and darker, we’re less likely to be outside on a regular basis, everything slows down, the snow stacks up, and it is so cold it hurts. And, SAD doesn’t help us much. The holidays that happen in the winter months can be particularly challenging for many of us, too. In short, wintertime can be really intense!
While we can’t do much about the weather, we can set ourselves up to manage the intensity and have coping skills at the ready, if and when we need them …
There are bits of advice that are tried, true, and dependable. So they’re on every single list that has suggestions for coping with even the bluest of the winter blues. SAD lamps (look for lamps on Amazon with 10,000 lux like this one!), taking Vitamin D, exercise, and getting our butts outside are some of the most commonly recommended strategies–for good reason, too! They do actually help. It’s wise to start incorporating any and all of these before symptoms even begin. I generally start working my SAD lamp into my routine as soon the days are noticeably shorter, usually in mid- to late-September.
Have realistic expectations about what we can expect from the world around us, and from ourselves. It’s going to get cold! It’s going to snow and you very well might get stuck in it at least once. Our families are still our families and the things that fired us up last year probably haven’t changed much. If seasonal depression comes up every winter, it’s totally reasonable to expect it to come up this year. Often, a great deal of the suffering we experience comes from the shame spiral that gets set off when we’ve over-promised, over-committed, and over-romanticized.
Keeping our expectations realistic doesn’t mean we can’t also be optimists – SAD be damned! We can believe that lovely things are possible and be radically honest with ourselves all at the same time.
GET SOME GREEN
Houseplants! Terrariums! Aquariums! Bring some of the summertime aliveness inside. Many tropical houseplants are very easy to grow indoors and require very little maintenance. There are a lot of very beautiful metaphors woven into the lives of plants and how absolutely lovely the world can be. It’s so easy to forget how incredible the planet is when the sky is dull and the locks on our car doors have frozen shut. Gently tending to plant life in the comfort of our own homes can shed a lot of light on just how vital we are.
If gardening is new to you the mere mention of houseplants gives you the shivers from the memories of the graveyard of greenery you’ve escorted to the garbage can, I really like this book. How To Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart by Summer Rayne Oakes.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Is there a new language you’ve been wanting to learn? An instrument maybe? Perhaps you’ve been meaning to learn how to draw for the last decade, but life just keeps getting in the way. The season of being indoors is a great time to start exploring new hobbies or interests. We can get bored and feel a bit cagey when our world gets as small as it does in the wintertime. Keeping our hands busy and brains occupied with learning can add a really impactful element of joy into our day-to-day lives. It can be really difficult to find joy or interest in, well, anything if SAD comes to play so also give yourself some permission to simply explore. Even better if you can bring a friend or loved one in on your exploration! Staying connected to the people we love can be a really powerful buffer in its own right.
ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE
Having some semblance of a predictable routine can really help. Not only because it keeps the momentum going, but because it can take some of the guesswork out of self-care. I very much see self-care, not as the face masks and massages we treat ourselves to, but the everyday things we do to take really good care of ourselves. Seasonal depression can really impact how we care for our bodies so establishing a routine for our days actually assists us in keeping ourselves moving forward.
A BIT O’ GRACE
Remember that we are all squishy and vulnerable human creatures. We all move through different seasons in our lives and as much grace and compassion as we extend to those around us, we also deserve to give to ourselves. There are very real reasons SAD comes around. There are very real feelings that can come from it. It doesn’t mean anything about who we are, but rather, describes an experience we are having.
SAD: THE TAKEAWAY
SAD comes up for a lot of us in the cold winter months and can be a really hard thing to experience. It’s also totally a hard thing we can do. Life isn’t always simple, and yet we are here doing it every day. Keep going. If you are thinking about suicide or worried about a loved one, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7 1-800-273-8255.
Tune in next week for week 2 of our Holiday Survival Guide, and of course, reach out to us if you need some support! That’s what we’re here for ❤️