Coping with Winter Darkness
Bleak days are here again.
I hate to be melodramatic, but short, dark days are hard on me. I’m tired, agitated, and self conscious. I feel unsettled and experience mood swings.
Having grown up in the Sunshine State, I wasn’t diagnosed with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) until 2020.
But even before official diagnosis, I developed a few coping mechanisms to make these next few months a little easier.
And on the particularly bad days, I remind myself that the days won’t always be getting shorter! The sun will shine again.
1. Get house plants
I have lived in basement apartments and city walk-ups with limited views of nature. But I’ve found that my house feels a little more like a cozy Hobbit Hole when it’s full of plants. My current favorites are succulents, like Aloe, and a Cat Palm our old neighbors gave us when they moved.
It’s not just seeing green plants that calms me, I’ve made a ritual out of carefully tending to them, moving around the house, inspecting new growth, and adjusting them so they get the sunlight they need. Plus, plants filter air, making it more oxygen rich and cleaner overall. They also release up to 97% of water they take in, acting as a natural humidifier.
2. Get outside
Even if it’s chilly where you live, getting outside once per day lifts the spirits.
If doing an outdoor activity is out of the question, a drive through a park or down tree-lined street can make a difference. Or, spend some time with a warm drink and a sweet treat at a coffee shop.
3. Use a SAD lamp
If the darker months mess with your mood, you might want to sit next to some artificial sunshine each day. Though not a perfect solution, light therapy can offer relief from seasonal depression if used consistently. I have mild Seasonal Affective Disorder and this will be my first year using a lamp each day, so I’ll let you know how I feel. (I’m using one from Verilux, which I purchased secondhand.)
Note: This is by no means a cure all. If you have severe anxiety or depression symptoms, or are having trouble coping with mood swings, see your doctor.
4. Unplug from social media
Install a plugin to remove your Facebook Feed, uninstall apps from your phone, and seek out real life connections. I use the News Feed Eradicator extension for Google Chrome – it stops the mindless scrolling immediately.
5. Read a good book
Lose yourself in a narrative. For really good, therapeutic reading, I recommend memoirs, YA science-fiction, and anything else that can transport you somewhere else.
I enjoy reading Carl Hiaasen and Karen Russel books in the winter because the stories often take place in Florida.
6. Be kind to yourself
This has been the key to successfully getting through the dark months for me. It’s ok that you’re feeling tired and agitated. It’s not your fault. Breathe deeply, cuddle under a blanket, be nice to yourself.
I like to make myself a hot cup of chai or matcha each day when I get home from work. The kick of caffeine energizes me enough to finish up what I need to do for the day and the warm spicy-ness is always an indulgent treat.
What are your tips for handling the winter blues?