Well, winter has officially set in on the Ohio. It took awhile, and even this little cheesehead was relishing the 45* and sunny. While the new fallen snow is something I wished for in December and it certainly makes my heart sing to see the ground twinkle with white, I know that it also means colder weather, grey skies, and that little black cloud that hangs over my head increasingly heavily with every winter.... seasonal affect disorder.
I have been blessed with mental health in my life. I marvel at people who struggle day in and day out in their own mind, to fight big battles with scary enemies like bipolar, schizophrenia, or paranoia. I cannot even fathom the amount of courage it must take to face and fight those demons day in and day out. I thank God every day that those struggles are not my own, and try to constantly remember those whose mental health battles are so intimate and so severe in my prayers.
I also feel like it's my responsibility to be open about my own mental health pursuits, in order to relieve some of the stigma for those whose struggles are greater. It's the least I can do, especially from the vantage point of a minister's wife, where most of my life is lived in a fishbowl regularly examined by Christians and skeptics alike. That's how stigmas die: with openness and honestly, one person's example at a time.
Seasonal affect disorder (SAD) is more than just a bummed out day, and different than typical depression. It reoccurs every fall/winter, and can manifest in many ways. While I don't know a lot of the science behind it, I know it can have to do with decreased sunlight during the day, and messed up melatonin levels during the winter months. I may not be an expert, but these are the things that have helped me. Feel free to try them out or hold me to it when you see me next :)
1) Involve Your Close Friends and Family.
Community is really important, especially with disorders that can cause people to seclude themselves, or lack the energy to seek proactive treatments. The Crazy Minister has been great about helping me keep my diet healthy and getting me back to the gym.
Physical activity not only relieves stress and makes you feel better about yourself, it also releases endorphins, literally fighting off depression. If you think you might struggle with following through if your condition worsens, grab a friend and make a schedule to go together!
3) Hit the Tanning Beds.
If there's not enough sunny hours in the day, create some more! It will make your bones feel less creaky and your mood feel lifted. If you're worried about skin cancer risks, try going with sunscreen.
4) Eat Healthy and Add Some Vitamin D.
Fish, milk, Soy milk, mushrooms, and fortified cereals are all very high in vitamin D, the nutrient your body soaks up from sunlight. Eating healthy and even adding some vitamin C also keeps your immune system stronger to fight the cold and flu season which also pervades the winter months.
5) Find Strength In The Lord
We don't know why God lets people struggle with sickness or depression, but we do know that He desires for us all to rely on Him so He can sustain us and shine His light into our lives. Download a free Bible App and listen to it while you drive; get a Christian book on cd from the library; tune the dial to the local Christian station; hit up church on Sunday. The Spirit of the Lord will sustain you as you lean on Him, but you have to plug in.
As always with any mental health condition, see a professional. And a word to the wise: Don't wait until it's "bad enough." You can almost always say "it's not that bad." But what benefit does waiting have that could possibly outweigh the benefit of going? Go. You owe it to yourself and the ones you love to check it out, and it can't waste more time than you regularly waste on Pinterest or Friends re-runs.