It’s official, we’re about to hit the most wonderful time of the year! However, for some of us, this season is anything but wonderful. If you are one of those that suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder, then this post is for you. For others, it’s important for to recognize that for some, this time of year can be very difficult.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD), is akin to seasonal depression. It’s essentially when your mental health takes a hit due to the change of the seasons. This can occur for many reasons, however, in this post, we will focus 3 triggers that may cause you anxiety or aggravate your SAD. Then we will focus on 3 things that have helped us move forward in those moments.
Trigger 1 - Shorter days and Serotonin
One of the major causes of this disorder is the changing of the clock and the lack of sun. For most of us, during this time of year we head to work before the sun rises and we go home after the sun has set. This causes a lack of vitamin D and can lower the serotonin that light helps to produce. Chemically, this could cause us to feel more down than usual. Personally, we feel like we are wasting away at work. It feels like the days have no true beginning or end and that we are giving up too much time for the almighty dollar.
Trigger 2 - Seasonal work equals seasonal stress
Another aspect that could impact this are for those of us who work in industries highly impacted by the seasons. For those of us who go shopping at the last minute or head to the movies, amusement parks, etc. during the holidays, we don’t recognize that it takes a huge workforce to allow others to enjoy these times. While we may feel the burden of longer lines, angry drivers and frantic shopping. Those that are working are left to deal with the physical and mental toll. For those in these industries, this time of year can be filled with negative emotions and insane amounts of stress and pressure. It’s easy for us who don’t work in the impacted industries to get frustrated at the crowds or long wait times, but let’s not forget the stress of those that have to smile through it all.
Trigger 3 - The crazy family!
One final aspect that we would like to touch on is the Holidays themselves. So often in media we’re made to think that the holidays are a joyous time to be spent with loved ones. Well, for many people, relationships with certain family members may be strained and difficult. After all, who doesn’t have that angry aunt or uncle! Whether you disagree philosophically or you have had major arguments in the past, the thought of having to spend time with that person can be challenging. For many this can cause anxiety and depression!
What was the point?
You’re probably thinking, wow Tomodotchi, that was a very grim picture… What are we supposed to do with that information? Well, the reason we wrote those examples is just to provide some potential triggers of what may affect yours or other’s mental wellness during this season. It’s important to recognize the different struggles and triggers of others, so that we can either set ourselves up for success or we can be ready to help others who may not enjoy this season as much as you!
These next three tips are things that you can do in recognition of the hard time to come. Building resources and tools that you can use during the hard times is incredibly important to your success. The more you can prepare beforehand, the less difficult the hard times will be. We should all take some time to assess if we are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder and think of some steps, we can take to minimize the impact.
Response 1 - See a doctor and / or therapist
First and foremost, if you recognize that the change to winter is a difficult time for you, it can be extremely beneficial to see a doctor or therapist. They can help you understand what is happening on a scientific level. Furthermore, they have access to tools like light therapy, medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc. Being able to set up a game plan with a professional before the hard times can be game changing. Ultimately, these are the people who are trained to support and care for you! Set up time to see your doctor or therapist before life gets too crazy!
Response 2 - Set Boundaries
Now this may be easier said than done, especially for those who work in retail or grocery stores. But it’s important to set boundaries and non-negotiables in your life. During this time, when we know the sun sets early, we make it a point to spend at least 30 mins on our lunch break outside in the sun. We prioritize getting the vitamin D and serotonin boost that the sun provides. Personally, we set a daily block in our calendar to ensure this time happens.
For those of us who can’t have a set time every day, we can still set a non-negotiable to use our 15 min or 30 min breaks to go outside. The briefest of breaks and sun can set some much-needed distance from your stress and big boosts to your energy.
Response 3 - Gather support and community
For those of us who struggle with the lack of sunlight or the difficulties of seasonal work, it’s important to have a strong foundation of community and support. Being able to vent or work through our problems by talking things out is incredibly important. Having the ability to have peer to peer outlets and people who hear us and make us feel valid can help our wellbeing. If you need a community, our Tomodotchi Wellness Group is a Facebook group that anyone can join. We’re building a peer-to-peer community of people who can discuss the struggles, hear you and make you feel seen. Come join our community if you are in need of likeminded friends who understand the struggle of mental health and illness.
Next, for those of you who are dealing with difficult family situations, it’s important to have allies at home. Whether it’s a parent, sibling or cousin, there is likely at least one person who you can trust in your family. Speaking with them before a family event and explaining why specific people cause you anxiety can be beneficial. They can help you recognize when you are being triggered and they can help support you. You can establish boundaries ahead of time, like asking them to take you away if you’re getting upset. It isn’t weird for two family members to walk away to have a discussion!
Even if not, just knowing that you have one person there who understands your struggle and is there for you can help your mindset significantly. Most likely, you’ll also realize that you aren’t alone in your feelings!
Ultimately, while this can be the best time of year for some, for others it may be a difficult time. It’s important for us to recognize the negative effects this time of year may have. If you recognize that this time of year is a struggle for you, it’s important to set yourself up for success. Things won’t be easy, but at least you will be as prepared as you can be! Just remember, you are strong and brave and you have made it through every winter season before this. You absolutely will make it through again!
If you are looking for some other tips and tricks for fighting anxiety, check out our post on practicing self-awareness for better inner strength or our post on overcoming self-doubt and emotional invalidation. For those of you dealing with difficult people in your lives, you can see our post on understanding different personality types for better interactions. Additionally, for those of you who are feeling particularly overwhelmed, in another post we cover how to overcome feeling overwhelmed. Finally, for those of you that are experiencing SAD, anxiety or depression, please check out our open letter we wrote to remind you how amazing and awesome you are!
Seasonal affective disorder is essentially seasonal depression. Lack of sun, changes in stress, etc can all contribute. It’s important to recognize the signs and triggers and come up with responses to get through the hard times!
As an added bonus for our readers, we like to include a game of where are the Tomodotchi Pets. They’ve been hidden in 2 of the pictures within this post. Can you find them all? See below for what they look like!