I’m so behind on this whole combatting seasonal affective disorder symptoms thing, but I’m trying to catch up now before “real” winter kicks in. The time change throws me off, though, so I already feel like it’s winter. Here are some of the things I’m doing to prepare myself so the shorter days and cold temperatures won’t have as much of an effect on my mental health as they could. Please keep in mind that I’m not a doctor or therapist and I’m just sharing what helps me and what I’m doing to prepare for winter.
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Easing Seasonal Affective Disorder Symptoms
I can’t say this will keep all the symptoms away, but I feel like this list could be useful in at least easing seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Fingers crossed.
Cooking Meals That Last for Days (or Freezing Them for Later)
We’ve already been making stews, chili, soups, roast with veggies, and more things that can last. Tonight, we’re making chili. We have the Sleepytime Stew and Cream Cheese Smashed Potatoes from Chrissy Teigen’s new cookbook on the list for later this week.
I’ve got slow-cooker-based cookbooks in rotation for making grocery lists. I may look for more Instant Pot recipes that require next to no prep work (any recommendations?). The key is to keep healthy food easily accessible and/or pre-made. Or at least make sure something’s easy enough to make that it’d take more effort to go pick up takeout. I love Thai takeout and Taco Bell, but they’re not always the best when my mental health is in a precarious position.
Some of my favorite cookbooks for cooking like this are:
- Cravings (There’s so much comfort food in this book and that is awesome, but I found that I needed to “healthify” some recipes if I was going to use it all the time…like the tuna casserole with jalapeno chips that I ate for lunch for about a month straight.)
- Cravings: Hungry for More (Not all recipes are good for this, but some are.)
- The Everything Low-Carb Meal Prep Cookbook (The meal prep aspect is built-in…I just wish there were pictures of the final products.)
- Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook (A lot of these recipes are designed to make a LOT of food, so it’s great for leftovers and/or freezing meals.)
- Trim Healthy Mama’s Trim Healthy Table (Same story as above.)
Another non-negotiable? Getting my workout routine in place. No more skipping days! I will have built-in rest days, of course, but no more going a week or two (or more) without a sweat session. I’ve been slacking off here and I can definitely tell.
I really enjoyed Beachbody’s LIIFT 4 schedule over the summer. It was perfect for keeping me motivated without overwhelming me. I can see myself going back to it over the winter to keep my mind in check. You work out on Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, then work out on Thursday and Friday. There are no scheduled workouts on the weekends. Your “off” days can consist of stretching, foam-rolling, steady-state cardio (no HIIT), yoga, or playing with your kids (or friends, if you have a sport you all enjoy).
I’m also extremely interested in picking up the Alexia Clark workouts again. I canceled my account to save money and try LIIFT 4 a while back, but I really have been missing those workouts. In a pinch, I’d use the Nike Training app (free). I rarely use that because I just don’t like working out from my phone that much, but it’s there and good when options are scarce. I love the app in theory but just prefer a bigger screen.
The hubby and I have been talking about switching gyms. If that happens, I’ll try to find some accountability in gym classes, too. There’s also a much-needed social aspect to those, too, so it’s kind of a double-whammy for easing seasonal affective disorder symptoms. Plus I’m browsing Groupon and LivingSocial for workout classes or group activities I would enjoy.
I have always been a big fan of aromatherapy, even before I got into essential oils or thought about needing to ease seasonal affective disorder symptoms. I’ve been prepping my essential oil arsenal (mostly blends instead of single oils) over the course of the past several months since I’m a Wellness Advocate and trying to keep up with my loyalty orders. Here’s what I’ve got:
- Serenity. This one is good for easing my anxiety and just to ensure the best sleep possible…and oohhhh, my goodness, I can’t stop using it at bedtime now. I read a few pages, put some Serenity on my hands, pass out, and usually sleep well. I think I’m more prone to mental health issues when I’m not sleeping well, so that’s why it’s especially important to get the best quality sleep I can (especially on nights I can’t get the quantity I want).
- Cheer. This one is currently in the diffuser in my car. It’s the perfect blend of warm and sweet. There’s the warm spiciness of ginger, but it almost has a happy bubblegum smell, too. It’s definitely cheerful and it does seem to boost my mood.
- Motivate. I didn’t think I’d like this one, but who doesn’t want a bottle of liquid motivation (not to be confused with liquid courage, Lol)? It’s minty, citrusy, and just good overall. It wakes me up and energizes me to get things done (something else I have trouble with when I’m frozen by seasonal affective disorder), and the mint scent is blended in well with the citrus, herbs, and vanilla. I’m just not a big mint fan.
- Passion. Spicy, sweet, warm, and delightful, this one deserves to be worn as perfume. I bought the roll-on version and the regular bottle, so I can wear it without it irritating my skin or I can diffuse it in my office. It almost makes me feel like it’s warmer outside, if that makes sense, plus I feel like it keeps me motivated to work on the projects I care most about. It just smells warm.
- Balance. You know how anxiety and depression can make you feel a little detached from reality, you’re so wrapped up in your own head and in your own thoughts? Well, Balance has brought me back down to earth several times. I usually put it on the soles of my feet when I’m feeling a little “out there.”
- Citrus Bliss. Citrus is good for boosting your mood and vanilla is pretty soothing. Combine the two and you have Citrus Bliss, possibly one of the happiest scents ever to be packaged in a bottle. Sometimes I mix it with Whisper and use it as a perfume. The combo makes me feel mysterious and sexy, but joyful.
- Breathe. This is the mintiest blend I know of, but it’s not so minty that I don’t enjoy it or use it regularly. Mint is a mood-lifter. It also helps with the headaches I get often when it’s cold. And it helps me breathe (hence the name) if I’m stuffy. But it also seems to help me with clarity and focus, both things that seem to take a nosedive when SAD hits.
- ClaryCalm. I can’t tell you how surprised I was by this one. It’s not something I use for everyday anxiety and depression. Instead, I use it to help with my hormone-induced issues, which can be exacerbated during the winter. Cramps? Moodiness? Roll it on your belly. Some people really like the scent, but I’m not the biggest fan because it’s got fennel in it. Even though it’s not my favorite scent in the world, it’s totally worth it to keep it on hand.
I do want to point out that you should always read up on any essential oils before you use them. Some can cause skin irritation if used neat or even if they’re just not diluted enough, or worn in sunlight. Do your homework and enjoy these beautiful benefits.
Self Care and Maintenance
Setting my self-care schedule in motion is a big deal for me. I’ve started making appointments well in advance. I’ll show up if it’s already done, but I’m a lot less likely to take the initiative and make an appointment when I’m already feeling like garbage. Nothing makes me feel worse than a bushy unibrow and a giant, frizzy mess that has grown bigger instead of longer on my head.
My hair is taken care of for now (appointment was made in September) and I’ll just make another one while I’m there. I need to go fix my eyebrows (threading) since they’re looking like they could crawl off my face at any point. I can see if they’ll take appointments or if it’s always a walk-in deal.
I’m pretty low-maintenance at the moment (not that I’m proud of that), but if I were to create the perfect list of things to schedule for my life, I’d set up appointments for:
- Hair color
- Brow threading
- Lash extensions
Maybe I’ll play around with the schedule and budget and see if I can squeeze in at least a massage every now and then, on top of the brows and haircuts. There’s no need to add more stress to your life by spending too much on services, even if they make you feel great in the moment, though. Those things add up! DIY can be therapeutic, too.
Don’t Be Quite so Holly Jolly
At least not with the alcohol that’s so free-flowing around the holidays. I signed up for Winc in the spring or summer and got one box of wine (four bottles), then I canceled it for good a little while later. I canceled because wine makes my anxiety flare up, followed by the rush of depression.
To avoid the temptation of a nice glass of red wine in the evening (or more), try to switch to herbal tea in a gorgeous mug or kombucha in a fancy glass. I also like the Golden Turmeric Latte and Chai Latte from Four Sigmatic when it’s time to wind down in the evening. (Note: If you click that link and you’re a new Four Sigmatic customer, you’ll save $10. Anyone can use the coupon code “thatoldkitchentable” to save 10 percent.)
Reading personal development and inspiring books really helps keep me in a good place mentally. I’m collecting them and putting them front and center on my bookshelf. Here are some of my favorites and books I have and/or want to read at the moment:
The Illuminated Bible (Art Journaling Edition), which brings comfort and inspiration, depending on what I need:
The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha (have it, need to read it):
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (read it, loved it):
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott (I don’t actually have this one yet, but I want to buy it or check it out from the library):
Also, anything by Brene Brown.
If you need more book recommendations, be sure to follow me on Instagram. You can send me an email or leave a comment here, too, and I’ll see if I can help. I’m a book NERD, y’all. The book recs never end.
A New Journal
When starting a new season (as in, the seasons or changing OR your life has taken a big turn), I recommend a new journal and pens that write like a dream. I recently picked up a leather journal dyed a beautiful magenta shade while we were on vacation. I have yet to write in it, but soon…soon. As for pens, it’ll just depend on the type of paper you have. I like Papermate Flairs, Pilot FriXions, and Pentel EnerGels.
Other Things You Could Try (That I Haven’t Yet)
- Lightboxes and dawn simulators: These make it seem as if the days aren’t as dark and gloomy as they actually are. I’ve heard good things, but I haven’t invested in one yet.
- Vitamin D supplement (I’m looking into this as well as the Udo’s Oil 3-6-9 Blend, which is a plant-based omega-3 supplement)
- Take a vacation to somewhere warm in January or February, if you’re lucky enough to swing it! You’ll get warmth, sunshine, and have something to look forward to in the dreary months leading up to your departure date. I won’t be able to do that this year, but it would be nice!
What are you planning to use to ease your seasonal affective disorder symptoms? When do yours start and end? What have you tried that did or didn’t work in the past?