The first time a friend told me that they suffered from SAD, I wanted to slap the shit out of them. You mean you really have a mood disorder with the acronym SAD? You ass, it’s not Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s a regularly occurring season that crushes people’s dreams until spring. You don’t like the cold, the ice, and the never-ending darkness? Welcome to winter, you twee fuck. Go buy a shovel while they’re still in stock.
However, as I got older and more crotchety, I realized that there may be something to this disorder. Having spent most of my life on the East Coast, and mostly in the Northeast, I’ll know winter is a drag. If you’re low on cash and having to decide whether or not to freeze your cheeks or pay for gas heat in your home, you’re living in suck city. Once you’re past the point of a snow day meaning a day off from school, winter is just an icy kick in the head. I’m now willing to admit that SAD is a real thing. A real, true, deep dark hope-sucking thing.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s SAD page, the following are SAD’s symptoms:
- Loss of energy
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
The list is actually one major symptom: suspicion that you are turning into a hangry, hibernating bear. Being a drowsy bear with a full belly is actually kind of fun until the department stores start stocking bathing suits while you’re still eating marked down Russell Stover chocolate Santas. That’s a wake-up call that hurts.
Somewhere in the haze of time when you were shutting out the world and calling out of work sick in order to half-consciously slurp down Swiss Miss cocoa with a handful of M&M’s thrown in and snuggle under a blanket to watch Willow and Judge Alex on daytime TV, it occurs to you that this JUST ISN’T RIGHT. Jumping Jehoshaphat, what have you done? You’ve simply fallen prey to SAD.
I’ve been there. That’s why I’m here to help with some suggestions to help get you into the spring with minimal damage.
- Get some sun. Sunlight helps wake your body up and provides vitamin D. Go outside and soak it up! Throw open your blinds and curtains and let it fill your bedroom (or living room if you’ve been too sluggish to move from the couch at night).
If you’re not able to get much natural light, try a sun lamp. (Oh, come the fuck on, Dee. You bourgeois hippie, you say.) I confess-I actually have one and I use it daily in the winter. I think it helps. Even if it really doesn’t fix my brain, doing something that FEELS like it’s making me healthier actually does make me feel healthier. It feels like an accomplishment when I sit in front of the light for 20-30 minutes because I remembered to do it and then did it. If you’re struggling to get anything done during a depression, accomplishing little things helps.
- Eat greens and citrus fruits. Winter is time for stews and carbs, I get it. However, leafy greens, oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, and tangerines are best in the winter, and they’ll give your body a boost during these miserable dark days. I’m won’t tell you what foods to avoid. But here are a few recipes for Chocolate Kale Chips, Chocolate Spinach Pancakes, Spinach Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting, Meyer Lemon Pudding, and a Fresh Orange and Greek Yogurt Tart to give you some ideas on what to do with that seasonal produce.
- Exercise. This is always my least favorite piece of advice to receive, but this shit seriously helps keep me alert. It also turns my anxiety way down. Just move in some way that encourages you. Do not squeeze your belly in front of the mirror for “motivation.” That’s just abuse.
- Masturbate. It helps everything. Why not SAD?
- Get a kiddie pool (whatever it takes to get one, just do it) and fill it with sand. Tell yourself it’s the beach and lie in it with a space heater and your sun lamp next to you. What’s up, Club Med?
- Take a trip to somewhere else. This is especially important if you live in a city and all of your hopes feel quashed by buildings that obstruct your precious sunlight. Just go somewhere else that isn’t your own home. Indoor gardens, museums, even a different location in the same coffee shop franchise. It doesn’t matter so much where you go, but change your scenery in small doses.
- Attend a drag show. If my older brother could pull it together in the winter to don a beaded bodysuit and 7 inch heels to shake it to Gloria Estefan, you can at least go watch the show. Be mesmerized. Seriously. Have you ever heard of a drag show fucking up someone’s day? NEVER. THAT’S RIGHT. THEY ARE HEALERS.
- Soak a clean t-shirt in Vitamin C-rich orange juice and spend the afternoon sucking the taste out. This works best in private. Do not attempt at work unless you work with me.
- Make and play in your personal ball pit. You can buy PVC balls for kids. The best part about having your very own ball pit is that there won’t be any stale pee at the bottom of yours unless you want it there. Better yet, run a hot, Epsom salt bath, toss in a bath bomb from Lush, and then throw the balls in. If you’ve been truly worn by SAD, you probably need a bath by now.
- Do something new with your appearance, even if you’re the only one who can see it. I used to get fed up with my life and bleach my hair out. Not always the best move, but I did like seeing the drastic, personal change in the bathroom mirror during the dark days of processing veterinary patient files in the basement of an animal hospital. But you can just take a Sharpie and write inspirational messages on your drawers too.