‘The evenings are drawing in’. This phrase reappeared at the same time every year when I was growing up! Gently at first in late September, then picking up strength as it heads for December….the sentence found its way into what seemed like every conversation throughout the day! But for many, the spoken words are a preparation for what lies ahead. They were a message to the self that “I know its coming. I’ve been here before”. This is what makes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) so difficult to live with. There is a certain resignation that it will return, as sure as the seasons change, or as the tide returns.
So now is the time that people around us, or maybe ourselves as individuals, could either be stuck in a lower mood or even battling with a deep depression. For some the feeling is a sense of ‘I really can’t stand the dark and rain’. This is hard enough to take when you are facing into 3 or 4 months of dark evenings, but unfortunately for others it can be much worse to the extent that the feeling is ‘I really can’t get out of bed today’.
However, there are some bright spots appearing on the horizon. For a long time, doctors and other medical professionals were sceptical that the condition was real, and this only served to worsen the problem for the people suffering from it. Today however, SAD is officially recognised as a mental health mood disorder by the medical professional. Sufferers can gain comfort from the fact that they are better understood, and that they are not alone in their struggle with it. For the 1 in 15 people who suffer from it, there is a lot more understanding of what can be done to minimise the suffering.
At The DMC Clinic we work with clients who struggle with SAD. We help them build their own ‘scaffolding’ that will keep them safer and steadier as winter comes. What is also being discovered in research is that SAD has a negative impact on a range of other mental health problems. The symptoms of people who suffer from addiction disorders, eating disorders and anxiety disorders can show signs of re-emergence if they also struggle with SAD. In counselling we work closely with this in the knowledge that SAD can have a massive impact beyond just our mood.
“What can we do about it?” I hear you all say! In an earlier article we spoke about taking the time to ask ourselves and others the question ‘R U OK’? Now is a great time to check-in again and remind ourselves of whatever we have identified as being good for us. What was formerly known as ‘the Winter Blues’ tends to peak in December and January according to Mental Health Ireland, so this is the perfect time to focus that little bit more on our mental health.
Battening down the hatches and nailing down the windows helps people survive the winter, but maybe this year we deserve more than to just survive. There are an increasing number of techniques that are used in therapy that can help bolster our resources as we take on winter. Let’s do more for ourselves and focus on what nourishes us or brings a little contentment in the day. Seek out the shiny things in the corner of our eye instead of staring too far into the distance looking for Springtime. If winter is a marathon, lets try to enjoy the run instead of praying for the finish line to come.
The article is written by Noel, Trainee Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.