How I cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

i do not envy the owner of that carIt’s right around this time of year that I can just begin to feel the winter starting to seep in at the edges of my brain.

I’m a bit tired for no discernible reason. I’m getting a little forgetful. It’s harder for me to concentrate. Just this week, I’ve written no less than three different blog post drafts — none of which managed to gel right and I gave up on them all.

Those of you that have been reading my blog for a while know I have Seasonal Affective Disorder — and for those of you that don’t, well, now you know.

I realized recently that I mention it now and then, but I’ve never said how I deal with it. Over the years, I’ve cobbled together a number of things I do (or don’t do) to help get me through the winter.

First, though, a disclaimer: if you fail to grasp that I am so not a medical professional in any way then you totally deserve whatever horrible misfortunes may befall you.

And now:

My Simple Guide to Coping with
Seasonal Affective Disorder
(Which I Will Not Abbreviate as “SAD”
Because That is Really Stupid)

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1. Get more sunlight into your brain.
Getting out of the house (especially in the morning) and walking around in whatever sun there may be will help. Of course, this is assuming that you can actually see the sun, which, let’s face it, it’s winter and it may be days or even weeks before you see any appreciable amount of sunlight. Enter the Verilux HappyLite Deluxe Sunshine Simulator. Despite its ridiculous name (and steep price tag), it has really made the most difference for me. I set it on my desk about 18″ from my face and just let it shine on me while I do other things. Like, say, write this blog post.

2. Drugs!
Okay, not drugs, really, but boring vitamins and supplements. A B-vitamin complex is essential to me — the boost of energy is the difference between actually getting some shit done versus sitting on the couch all day. (There’s also been some studies showing a link between low B-vitamins and depression but it’s still not clear which one causes the other.) Last year, I started taking an Omega-3 fish oil supplement. I found that when I was taking it, the jerk who lives in brain was much less likely to remind me how much I suck. St. John’s Wort is recommended by a lot of people, but it didn’t do very much for me — I had some success with the (highly-standardized) Kira brand tablets, though.

3. Get some exercise.
Even just a little helps a lot, and in the winter a little can feel like a lot. If the weather is okay, I try to walk at least a mile or so, but if it’s not, I usually get on the Wii Fit for a little while. My goal this winter is to finally make it through one of the EA Sports Active 30-day challenges. I think my record last year was about 6 days before I gave up. Which brings me to my next point…

4. Don’t be a dickhead to yourself.
Or, “it’s not you; it’s the February.” This one is, honestly, the hardest to remember to do. There’s an incredibly helpful book called Get It Done When You’re Depressed which gives 50 different strategies for getting through the day. The book’s an amazing blend of yes, I totally know exactly how you feel while also saying but seriously though get your ass up and get to work. A lot of the strategies are about just being kind to yourself: don’t write a to-do list with 30+ entries and then tell yourself you’re stupid/lazy/worthless when you only manage to cross off a handful. Accept that you’ve currently got some limitations, but don’t let yourself believe that you’ve always been that way or that it’ll never get better. It really, truly will be sunny again some day.

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