Scratching around

Hey lovely! Well, we’re stomping through autumn at a cracking pace – crispy leaves and squelchy puddles aplenty! How are you doing?

Aside from a few days where some of the physical anxiety-type symptoms have been rearing their heads again (seriously – what is that?!), I’ve been feeling really good! I’m still feeling more Tigger than Eeyore – yay! ๐Ÿ˜€

Just give me the answer!

I posted a short video for the Little Light Room Facebook page last week reflecting on some comments I’d seen. People’s symptoms are showing up and as ever we turn to the questions ‘why?’ and ‘what (else) will help?’

Some people are at the beginning of their journey having just been diagnosed or suspecting they have SAD. Others have been managing it for years. It’s easy to forget the relief of having a diagnosis or a new lead for what these symptoms could be. But it can also be really frustrating when there are no easy answers, can’t it?

We’re all scratching around trying to find ‘the answer’ to this! I’ve tried so many things and it can be hard to know what’s helping and what isn’t. Truthfully, though, there seems to be no single answer. Science hasn’t yet uncovered what causes SAD and Winter Blues, so we don’t know definitively how to help people. So, we continue searching!

Back to basics

I’ve been interviewed this week for a national newspaper. It naturally makes me feel very reflective when I’m asked to share my story and my tips for managing SAD. I forget sometimes that I’ve been experiencing SAD for 20 years. I’ve been proactively managing it for 16 years – nearly half my lifetime! What a weird thought! If I’m lucky, I may have over half of my life left to live. And half of that life will be spent managing SAD, so I want to get bloody good at it!

The tips I gave felt like I was trotting out the same basics that we’ve read loads of times before. It frustrated me that I knew they wouldn’t have the space to go into detail on this… but I do! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Just because they’re ‘the basics’ doesn’t mean we all do them perfectly all the time, though, does it?

As we move into the back end of autumn and into winter, the clocks changing is a great reminder to check back in with ourselves on these basics. Are we…

  • Making time to get outdoors in the daylight each day?
  • Using our light boxes every day?
  • Exercising regularly?
  • Eating well most of the time?
  • Keeping an eye on our sleep routine?

What to aim for:

  • 30 mins outdoors every day, ideally in the morning
  • 30 mins in front of a 10,000 lux light box each day during autumn and winter. Use it at arm’s length ideally in the morning. Maybe have a top-up in the early afternoon if needed. Never use in late afternoon/evening/night as it’ll energise you and disrupt your sleep!
  • Whatever exercise feels good to you as regularly as you can manage it – a brisk walk, run, cycle, gym workout, playing sports, dancing, energetic housework… Anything that raises your heart rate and makes you slightly out of breath
  • A varied diet with plenty of whole foods that are low in sugar (low Glycaemic Index). Eat little and often to stabilise your blood sugar. Stay well-hydrated
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, getting up and going to bed at the same time each day. Ideally, avoiding screens and blue-enriched light for at least an hour before bed

What else can we try?

As I’ve said, I’ve tried loads of things to help myself beyond these basics of good health! I’m still experimenting too! ๐Ÿ™‚ The latest things I’m trying are my green lenses, a CBT for SAD workbook that was recommended by the Roecklein Lab and I’m also reading up on the Vitamin D protocol (though blimey, those doses still seem soooo high to me!) I’ll let you know how I get on with all of these!

Some of the other things I’ve tried that have stuck and help me:

  • Vitamin C supplements – SAD can suppress your immune system and having a cold on top of SAD is never fun, so I take supplements all year round. They cut down my colds from half a dozen a year to one or two a year
  • Self-compassion – I’ve mentioned before that I was given this workbook by Paul Gilbert and I continue to draw on its techniques to go easier on myself
  • Boundaries – Learning about boundaries from a book by Anne Katherine a few years ago was a game-changer for me! It’s enabled me to take better care of myself with practical lessons in how to say no, stand up for myself and distance myself from situations or people where needed
  • Gratitude, affirmations and ‘what I’m looking forward to’ – I do these all together a few times a day, prompted by a recurring reminder in my calendar app. I say an affirmation, think of a few things to be grateful for and think ahead to what I’ve got coming up that day that I’m looking forward to – usually simple things like walking the dog, a steaming cuppa, my work, my fiance getting home, reading a book…
  • Day plans – Most days, while I eat breakfast, I review my diary and task list and plan what I’m going to do. This helps with feeling organised and keeping me focused throughout the day, giving me a sense of achievement when I finish up my day

I know it can feel frustrating scratching around for answers, not knowing what’s going to help. I hope that this post helps with some ideas for things you can try. Let me know on email or in the comments how you get on if you give any of them a go?

I did a series of four posts previously on how to manage SAD if you want even more ideas!

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