September is the month when I become acutely aware that the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting darker. Living in the NE of Scotland this is increasingly significant, as we head towards December. It is time for me to be pro-active and prepare for the months ahead.
Over 25 years ago I went to my GP armed with a written list of symptoms indicating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Initially, he wasn't very interested but by the time I got to the end of the list, he was on board and shared with me that the medical centre had just invested in three SAD lights and I could be the first person to have a light on a three month 'prescription'. But I get ahead of myself.....
At that time I had four children aged 2yrs - 7yrs, was working part-time as a flute tutor and was co-owner of a music shop/music school. Every winter I struggled significantly with energy (lethargy) and emotions (low mood). I had lost my dad earlier that year so initially my GP used that as a reason for my struggle. Although I agreed this was still affecting me, I knew it was only part of the story.
A week after that GP appointment, I was setting up my first SAD light and the rest is history. Within just three or four days, I felt like a completely different person. The awful lethargy and lack of enthusiasm for life had gone. For me, it really was miraculous. After that first three month loan, I invested in a light and have had at least one SAD light in my life ever since. It is worth trying one to see if it works for you.
There are several other self-help strategies that I put into action every September:
2. SAD light - Regular use of the SAD light is essential.
3. Exercise - Exercise of any sort is helpful. If it takes place outside, then it is even better! I also practise Yoga, which is helpful physically and mentally.
4. Mental health - Mindfulness, meditation and reiki have all been helpful. I am also part of a women's circle which meets regularly. I have always found this a nurturing, supportive, safe space to share my experiences, which has helped me enormously.
5. Diet - There is a craving for carbohydrates with SAD, often leading to weight gain, so it is important to ensure that I plan a well balanced diet and avoid the temptation. There has been scientific evidence revealing that a vegetarian diet leads to being more susceptible to SAD. I eat a mainly vegetarian diet but do eat meat when my body asks for it.
6. Sleep - There is a desire to hibernate and I don't battle against this the way I used to. I allow myself a longer sleep in the winter time (I don't need nearly as much sleep in the summer). It is one of the kindnesses I give to myself. Our ancestors would have gone into some sort of hibernation, I am sure!
7. Natural Oils - Sandalwood, Tea tree, Lavender and Lemon oils are all helpful.
8. NEW!!! Floatation therapy - I have recently been introduced to the Float Room, which has also been shown to improve low mood/depression caused by SAD. I don't really need an excuse to use the Float Room but glad I have one!
9. Medication - In some cases, people might be prescribed medication for SAD but I have managed to avoid this.
For more information about SAD: