What if Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not a disorder? And what if winter 2020 is not simply the biggest challenge to mood management, but a great opportunity to address the impact of winter on your mood?
Before I get stuck in, I must declare this as my own opinion as a therapist with decades of experience, and not a research study.
The whole concept of SAD is that a person’s mood becomes low following prompts from the changing daylight and temperature. We do know as practitioners that memory associations play a part in a mood dropping, so that this can become a psychological process which happens with seasonal or annual triggers.
The context of a society that expects us to be consistent, productive and social for twelve months of the year, surely has a part to play? With depression, as with anxiety, beating one’s self up for being where one is, tends to intensify and prolong the experience. Whereas acceptance and compassion tend to facilitate movement through the process (see The Paradoxical Theory of Change).
What if it’s natural and normal, even healthy, to engage in melancholic reflection on life as the trees drop their leaves and become bare? What if this is a natural process, a sort of clearing out of the hard drive? What if resisting this process, being afraid of the heaviness of grief, of the non-productive experience of lethargy and fatigue, means that year in, year out, a person has been fighting and resisting this clearing out and letting go? It would make sense to me that the process becomes increasingly difficult, intense and frightening.
I’m not suggesting that we belittle or make SAD any less serious. It really is a terrible affliction for people. I’m talking about the benefits of “leaning into”, and of allowing and accepting, natural process.
For me, as a therapist, my real concern with mood is stuckness, rigidity, habit, rather than flow.
Flow means to experience sadness and grief, to be able to move into joy and peace, to then experience resentment and anger for a short while before laughter arrives, or nostalgia. Seasonal affective disorder, seems to me, to be about polarised opposites. On the one hand we have the image of how we think we should be and on the other hand we have a stuck, depressed place. Neither polarity is authentic or free.
Spending time to be with what is, rather than what is expected, helps us trust the flow, the rhythm of life, our inbuilt systems for restoring balance and seasonal affective changes.
When I looked towards the coming winter, at first I felt very concerned: how would people cope with the winter blues, plus coronavirus anxiety or recovery, Brexit changes and disruption, unemployment, illness of loved ones or grief? When I looked at the coming winter, I knew I wanted to ensure there was as much support for people as I could.
But as I experienced lockdown for myself, I also began to see the potential of this year, above any other, to help us all regain our flow, and to regain trust of our own process and our natural systems.
One of the best things about lockdown was the simplicity of life when there were no events to go to, people to visit, parties to host, and concerts to attend. As much as I love all of these social events, it’s also true to say that many a time I’ve wanted to get into my pyjamas rather than my glad rags! Going out, even to a yoga class, in the cold and dark is hard. Going swimming when we’ve got four layers of clothes on to travel there, is hard work. Of course these are “problems“ I’d love to have, however the solitude, the peace, the silence, the lack of expectations from society, from others, and maybe most importantly from myself, enabled me to move into an even deeper understanding and acceptance of my own process, my own flow and grasp of what I needed to do.
So, as some of us prepare for the winter, whether that is sourcing our fuel supplies, stocking the larder, getting a flu jab, are we “prepping“ for the season psychologically? I have made sure that I have my yoga booked for the months ahead, my partner’s boxercise and martial arts classes are part of our “necessary expenses”. I encourage you to prep psychologically, for your mood, as well as for your belly.
My online group Nourish & Nurture is designed to support us, not in driving ourselves to “be better“ but simply to “be”.
Instead of thinking we have SAD, let’s think of ourselves as developing SASS (seasonal affective support systems).
FREE TASTER WEEK!
Because I understand signing up for a six month course is a commitment, I have decided to make my Nourish & Nurture TASTER WEEK in September open to all. You need only pay what you can afford. Register for free and make a donation according to your means and the value you get from the week. There is no obligation to continue in October though I hope that you will get so much from the taster week that you choose to join me in my small focused group from October through to March, beginning when the clocks go back and finishing when the clocks go forward in the spring.
Registration for the Nourish & Nurture six month course opens on September 29th.
The full course will have limited places because of the importance of a sustained, consistent group who can get to know each other and be there to share the journey. Reviews for last year’s course and more information can be found here.
Wishing you a sassy rather than sad season. I hope to see you all* on the taster week in September, along with your friends.
[This is not therapy so, as long as your therapist is happy for you to attend, everyone can attend and retain / control of their private information, as it’s a self directed learning experience and you can participate to whatever level is right for you.]
A reminder of my social media presence:
Miriam Blue Skies – Facebook Business Page:
A public and free page which you can follow for tips and links and articles.
Niceolation – Facebook Group:
I have a closed group in isolation which you can join, this is also free and open to anyone, just message me to add you.
Nourish and Nurture – closed and private Facebook group (no one can see comments or members of the group)
Payable by subscription (except the TASTER WEEK which is free / donation).
My Digital Policy on my website explores the boundaries of private practice and social media presence should you wish to read more on this link.