Winter can be a time of wondrous snow days, evenings by the fireplace, and Hallmark holidays. But in addition to the cheerful, colourful festivities of the season, the cold weather also brings forth an onset of cloudy, dark days that can be mirrored in emotions of hopelessness and depression.
The current school year has brought forth several candid confessions from Silhouette staff members and volunteers outlining the effects of an ongoing battle with mental illness. If you find this time of year tends to bring you down and affect your mood, here are a few tips that have worked, and continue to work, in helping me feel more like myself when dealing with depression and anxiety. I cannot guarantee that these will work for everyone, but making these changes have definitely helped me reduce my frequency of panic attacks, and revive the spring in my step when SAD has left me feeling hopeless.
When I first started speaking with friends who were also struggling with mental illness, one of the things we always seemed to have in common was an inability to keep a schedule. Sleeping was a challenge, making it to class was a burden, and for reasons unknown, we always forgot to eat. This year, I’ve started keeping a schedule that reminds me to keep up with my commitments and my necessary daily habits. It may seem like a pretty basic plan, but keeping a day planner and setting reminders on your phone will help you feel more organized and less stressed.
If you’re finding it difficult to make time for sleep, reschedule your life accordingly. If it takes you two hours to fall asleep, schedule in an extra two hours at bedtime. If you know you’re going to wake up at 3:00 in the morning, have a show queued on your laptop so you have something to lull you back to sleep again. Or even if you have the opposite problem and are sleeping too much, have a trusted friend or relative give you a call to remind you of the world outside your bedroom. Making time for sleep may require you to cut the time you spend on other commitments, but if you’re well rested, you’ll have more time and energy to get caught up the next day.
If you find that you’re forgetting about other important details in your life, such as eating or attending class, write everything down and check off each item as you go. It’s been about a year since I was diagnosed, and I still write down “Eat Lunch” in my day planner- but now I’ve yet to forget! Getting thrown off my school and eating schedules last year led to a drop in my grades and a rise in my weight. Not staying on schedule ended up giving me more worries on top of my pre-existing anxiety conditions. Having a visual outline for your day written on a calendar or in a planner will give you a better understanding of how much time you realistically have in a day.
Treat Yo’ Self
When you’re feeling down, you can’t waste time blaming yourself for your problems. Instead, treat yourself. Make yourself feel good about something rather than berating yourself into feeling worse.
Once a week, I schedule a two-hour time slot where I do something just for me. Put on some inspiring music (pro tip: avoid the Adeles and Lana Del Reys of the world), paint your nails, watch a movie, try a new recipe, do whatever it is that you wish you had more time for during the school year. It will be an instant pick me up that you’ll begin looking forward to every week.
Talk it Out
Talk to someone- a friend, a family member, a professional in the field, or even call a hotline if you don’t feel comfortable speaking with someone who knows you personally. If you’re bottling up your feelings, you’re hurting yourself and hurting others. Not only are you hindering your own chances of speaking about your problems and accepting them, you’re also preventing those around you from gaining a better understanding of what you’re going through.
Talking to yourself can even be a positive option. Don’t necessarily talk to yourself out loud, but writing in a journal or talking out your problems in your head can be beneficial in gaining a better understanding of what your stresses and upsets currently are.
Good Day Sunshine
Getting enough sunlight is crucial in keeping your mood bright. But if like myself you find yourself living, working, and spending a considerable number of classes in basements, you may need to resort to some synthetic forms of sunshine.
Going outside can be cringe-worthy when the term “Polar Vortex” has become a CP24 regular and frosted eyebrows have become a daily fashion statement. An alternative to the classic glowing orb is a sun lamp. I’ve recently ordered one (a little over $100 from Wal-Mart) and I’m highly anticipating its arrival. I’ve heard great things about its ability to both literally and figuratively brighten your day, and living in a basement, it’ll help my body rise naturally with the sun and create a natural schedule to follow.
If you find the darkness of the current weather is really affecting your mood and how you feel about getting out of bed in the morning, a sun lamp can be a beneficial step.
Be nice to yourself and be nice to others. Have an inspiring quote set as your desktop background, or reflect on your accomplishments at the end of the day. Complimenting yourself may seem lame, but it will boost your spirits and help you look towards the positives of each day.
And while you’re flattering yourself, let those around you know how much they mean to you. Complimenting someone else will make you feel like a genuinely good person and will leave you feeling more grateful for positive relationships in your life that you may sometimes overlook. You’ll feel good about it, and any recipient of a validating comment or complimentary text message is bound to also benefit from the flattery.
Dealing with depression, anxiety or seasonal affective disorder can leave you feeling hopeless. But taking a few steps in the right direction may have you turning down a path of new hope.