Maybe you already know some of the symptoms and triggers of seasonal affective disorder (“SAD”). Maybe you recognize that your own winter-season negativity and inertia are, in fact, evidence that this condition is at work in you. That’s good! The only way to begin aleviating SAD is to first recognize it. But after that…what do you do?
One of my primary recommendations for those who feel the effects of SAD is to change their mindset. That sounds like a tall order, and it can be. But a great way to get started on the path toward relief is to use the 3Rs. This is one of my favorite techniques for identifying the underlying causes of health problems. And SAD is one of many conditions that responds positively when treatment begins with the 3Rs process.
Let’s walk through the steps–Recognize, Reframe, Reclaim–together.
RECOGNIZE what’s going on. Start by evaluating how you feel. Are your winter blues an emotional state, or are you showing signs of both emotional and physical trouble? How severe is the depression? During what times of the day or week do you feel the lowest? Could certain activities or environments be triggering your feelings of depression? On the other hand, what activities make you feel your best, even as winter clouds cover the sky?
If you can pinpoint when, where, and during what tasks your feelings decline, you are just a step away from knowing what caused that plunge–and more importantly, preventing it.
REFRAME your thoughts and actions. Now take your answers and turn them into affirming statements of action. Start each one with a strong, positive “I can.”
For example, if you’ve identified the end of the cold, dim winter workday as a particularly low time, and you also observe that you feel good after a vigorous walk, your statement might go something like this:
“I can take a brisk stroll during my lunch break to revive my mood and avoid late-day slump.”
If dark days truly darken your mood, you can respond with
“I can prevent negative effects by using a light box for phototherapy every morning.”
If even the sunniest of winter days brings you down despite adjustments to diet and exposure to light, you might state
“I can make an appointment with a qualified expert to get to the bottom of this.”
Reframing may sound like a small, unimportant step, but it makes all the difference. This is the point where you move away from the idea that you are powerless and begin to regain control. Remember, it’s all about the “I CAN!”
RECLAIM your health and wellness. SAD lives up to its name, but it does not have to be a permanent condition. Whether the cold seasons affect you to a small or large degree, there is undoubtedly something you can do to relieve the depression. You don’t have to suffer. Take that first step. Commit to act on your own behalf. You deserve nothing less, spring, summer, fall, or winter.