Seasonal Affective Disorder and Self-Care

Autumn is here. The weather is rapidly getting cooler, and the leaves are changing color. The days are getting shorter, but that’s been happening since Midsummer back in June. What’s significant is that we’ve now passed the point where there is more darkness than there is light. Here in Finland, that’s accelerated. Because we’re so far north, we’ll lose approximately 6 minutes per day. On top of that, the quality of the light will become weak and thin, so that by November it feels like dusk even at the brightest point of midday. That’s why I need to make a plan to deal with seasonal affective disorder and self-care.

What I Know About Myself

Based on the past autumns here, I know what to expect. I have an awareness of what it’s going to look like outside, and how the lack of light is going to affect me. It already is, to a small degree, but I’m only noticing it because I’m actively watching for it. The Long Dark creeps up on me. There are symptoms of depression, as I’m feeling fatigued and unmotivated. My anxiety and sound sensitivity are much more acute than they have been for months. I know how quickly I can go down a rabbit hole into misery and unproductive behaviors.

Facing the Long Dark

The tactic that works best for me is to simply lean into it. Rather than fight the darkness, I try to embrace the coziness. I already have a fairly strong nesting instinct, so making the apartment warm and comfortable helps. The lighting needs to be adjusted, with plenty of halogen lamps but also candles and the fake fireplace streaming to the television. There has to be music, with the right mood and associations; when December arrives, it will be non-stop holiday tunes. Getting daily exercise, taking vitamin D, and eating a good diet are essential. Keeping comfort foods in reserve, to be consumed as needed rather than binging freely, will help maintain their specialness and efficacy as a mood elevator. Most importantly I need to have a reasonable schedule and stick to it, because without structure I sleep too much and get nothing done, then feel worse because I’m not accomplishing anything.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Self-Care

There is no shame in admitting that you have a vulnerability. I know that this time of year can be difficult for me. But I also love this season. By having a plan, I can enjoy the aspects that I love and get the most out of the glorious autumn without being completely trampled by the downside. Control follows awareness, and I am aware that I need to make self-care a priority.

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