Keeping the light despite Seasonal Affective Disorder

People in the Lower Mainland are soaking up the sun this summer, but those with Seasonal Affective Disorder are already dreading the winter months.
Once the longest day of the year has passed in June, those suffering from SAD keep watch as the night comes earlier and earlier. It isn’t something most of us consider –the summer heat seems so distant from the cold and dark of the end of the year. But those whose energy is sapped by the loss of light are constantly aware of the change.
It is even harder for those who are also dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety, the conditions overlapping and making life doubly difficult.
So what can we do, when the chill of winter-to-come hits us in July? How can we conserve our energy and prepare for the dark?
We can practice holding on to the light, both literally and metaphorically. We can walk in the sun whenever possible, play with our kids as the light dances in the leaves above us. We can use the light around us now to carry us through the fall and winter. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
1) Soak up the sun. Get outside, even on days where it feels too difficult. Make it the one thing you do for yourself, when postpartum depression is telling you to hide away inside. Go outdoors one day, and then the next, until your body is full of fresh air and graced with light.
2) Swallow the sun. Whether or not you can make it outside every day, you can still boost your Vitamin D levels. It’s something we West Coasters sorely lack, and Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Check with your doctor about which type is best for you and take it daily, even in the summer.
3) Fake the sun. Once the dreary days hit, a light box might help you hold on to summer’s glow. Doctors and counsellors can recommend something that might work best for you but basically, light boxes help you hang on to the healthier aspects of sunlight and carry you through the dark.
4) Get talking. There are many therapies that can ease the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and your doctor can suggest the right kind for your circumstances. For some people, cognitive behavioural therapy has proven very helpful. But go with whatever works best for you. Talk therapy and support groups can be helpful with Seasonal Affective Disorder and postpartum depression and anxiety. The Pacific Post Partum Support Society is a good place to turn to, when the two overlap.
5) Create comfort. West Coasters aren’t the only people who have to contend with a profound loss of light for much of the year. Northern Europeans, from Norway to Denmark, watch wistfully as the sunlight leaves them behind for months at a time. But they have something we don’t – the concept of coziness embedded right in their culture. Koselig and hygge have become popular worldwide, but those of us in the Lower Mainland have even more reason to embrace the philosophy behind them. Though it seems like the wrong time for it, you can start during the summer. Add elements to your home that bring you joy, from figurines to a handmade throw rug in the kitchen. And take care of yourself – feed yourself well and get the best sleep possible.
There are many ways you can begin to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder now, when you have more energy than your winter self. And some of the methods of creating light in the darkness may also help lift the darkness of postpartum depression and anxiety, as well. Whatever methods you try, do your best to stay in the moment, enjoying the light and the warmth when you can.

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