We are just four days away from Christmas and ten days into the new year. Most might feel warm, joyful and excited to spend time with family and friends during this festive season. However, some of you may not feel the same. Some may struggle to resonate with the majority's positive, lively vibe.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression or winter depression, is a mood disorder that is a subtype or qualifier of major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. SAD is characterized by depressive symptoms that occur at a specific time of year (typically during fall or winter) with complete remission at other times of year (typically during spring or summer)
This is due to the change in seasons, for example, a decrease in sunlight or a cold/rainy weather season. There could also be other contributing factors, such as family history and other underlying psychological or psychiatric issues, which may contribute to triggering seasonal depression or anxiety.
In Singapore, SAD is rare due to our tropical climate. Yet, some may still experience seasonal blues. Typically, we experience more rainy days than sunny days during the last few months of the year. Hence, having a more wet climate and gloomy skies towards the end of the year may alter our state of mind. Other factors that may contribute to feeling depressed, less enthusiastic, anxious or fatigued during the festive seasons are toxic or non-resonating social relationships and environment [e.g. family, friends, work and social media influence].
PS: Did you know some, if not most, cultures would celebrate or observe certain traditional customs during winter seasons? Most of these customs involve people gathering indoors with family, friends or the community. This was done to prevent or reduce the risk of depression and anxiety and increase the chances of surviving the cold winter seasons. As years go by, people merge more rituals and traditions into the mix, which may cause more anxiety or depression, as such traditions may incur financial strain or discomfort to one's values, beliefs, safety and morals. The preparation process leading up to the festive season can be daunting, even for someone who loves the holidays. If you struggle with work-life balance, needing to do additional chores can spike your stress and anxiety, leaving you to feel burnout during this supposedly joyful season.
Therefore, here are some tips on how you may help yourself and someone whom you know might be experiencing the season blues during any festive season.
Get out and embrace the sun & nature - I can never stress enough how important sunlight is to our well-being. Nature's vitamin D helps us recharge our energy body, specifically the crown chakra - known to govern the endocrine system. Sunlight and time in nature also help the body regulate and re-calibrate, resulting in better mood stabilization, boosted energy, improved sleep patterns and mental balance, and improved heart rate.
The grounding technique [e.g., barefoot directly touching the earth while walking/standing] is known to help with limbic and nervous system regulation.
Healthy consumption - When it comes to sustaining your well-being, consuming healthy matters. What we consume via foods, beverages, the movies or visuals we watch, the type of messages and audio we hear, and what we allow ourselves to feel affects our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual/energy body. Be mindful as you consume, and reduce what makes you feel exhausted, depressed and anxious [e.g., caffeinated and alcoholic beverages or food]. Increase your intake of matter (e.g., drinking more water), which rejuvenates and boosts your immunity.
Schedule ME TIME - scheduling self-care is crucial to maintaining your well-being, especially during the festive season. Enjoy activities that perk your soul [e.g., hobbies] aside from your nap time and time spent with your social group. Self-care allows you to stay connected with yourself, resulting in being able to care for others better. As the saying goes, you can't pour from an empty cup. Self-care allows you to fill your cup to prevent burnout.
Taking proper medications [as prescribed by medical practitioner] and supplements.
Practice good sleep hygiene - some may experience a change in sleep patterns due to climate change. Hence, set a routine which allows you to have 6 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
To-do list - plan what needs to be done over the period leading up to the event. A written to-do list will help you reduce the noise in your head and give you a clear visual of what needs to be done. Set realistic goals in light of the depression. Don't take on too much. Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you can as you can. Just remember to step back if you feel overwhelmed by the list., and
Seek help from trusted companions or professionals to help you handle the chores and maintain your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Avoid toxic environments or social groups - I understand it may not be easy to avoid certain social situations which may require you to be in the same environment as those you are toxic or don't resonate with you. Hence, the importance of self-care and confining with trusted companions come in handy to equip you with tools that will help you build mental resilience and establish healthy, safe boundaries.
Journaling - Keeping a diary helps note your thoughts and symptoms, including when they start and if particular things seem to trigger them, including changes in the weather. This could help you notice any patterns. You may also note things that were helpful for you or seem to make matters worse. Writing in your diary can be helpful because SAD, depression and anxiety affect you at some times and not others, making it a challenge to remember these details.
Try these suggestions to help you sail through the festive season while feeling slightly better. Remember, you are not alone as you perceive; your mental health matters. Seek proper care and support to help you feel better.