Well, here we are again. The clocks are set back, and the darkness spreads itself across the day, far earlier than we would like. With that, the days feel longer, and somehow harder to get through.
For many of us, this loss in sunlight, can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder, also sometimes referred to as Seasonal Depression. I’ve certainly struggled with it over the years, and for me, it has kicked in at various times during the fall and winter months.
This year, mine came early, which in a way was a blessing because I noticed it faster, and I was able to take action right away.
What are the signs to look for?
- Weepiness for no apparent reason.
- Sudden loss or increase in appetite.
- Increase in cravings toward carbohydrates or binging on junk food.
- Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy.
- Feeling hopeless, or worthless.
- A low feeling you can’t move on from.
- Extreme exhaustion.
- Wanting to isolate.
- Issues with sleep.
- Increased irritability.
While these could be associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, it’s important to know these things could also happen due to life circumstances or other conditions. However, if you’re experiencing any of these things, the main thing is to pay attention to your body, and speak up.
If the time change has hit you hard, or the slow progression to darker days, leading up to the dreaded Daylight Savings Time, has you feeling not so great, there is hope! Here are some simple ways to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder as a Christian.
That said, take this as what I’ve learned from my own experience with Seasonal Affective Disorder, and depression overall. I of course always advise speaking with your doctor or therapist as well. This is not medical advice, but rather, what has helped me to recover quickly.
Simple things are not always easy. Especially when we’re fighting against depression, or other illnesses that disrupt our minds and bodies. I’ve learned the hard way, that consistency is one of the most important practices to achieving success in these types of battles.
Therefore, I’d be remiss to skip over this warning, because without it, the steps that I share won’t help all that much. However, in the same breath, I fully understand how depression can make the easiest tasks feel impossible.
When you struggle to be consistent, here are some things to try:
- Ask for help from your spouse, friend, parent, sibling, or older child. They can help keep you accountable.
- Ask God to help you stay consistent. He cares for you and your health.
- Set timers/reminders on your phone. At my worst, I have timers going off all throughout the day to remind me of various things, even that which is usually obvious, like self care tasks.
- Make lists and post them in a place where you will see them throughout the day.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are my best tips and practices, from my own experience in battling Seasonal Affective Disorder. If you’re struggling, there is hope! And the good news is, circumstances come and go. This is just a season.
#1 Submit To The Great Physician
God tells us in Psalm 139, that He formed our body in our mother’s womb, and therefore, as our maker, He knows us deeply. In fact, he knows all the days set out for us, and He even knows our thoughts.
What could be more comforting, than to be so very known, loved, and watched over? So, we can only conclude that whatever we’re dealing with in life, He knows that too.
Yes, even the Seasonal Affective Disorder that tries to bring us down. You are not alone, even in this.
I personally, find that submitting my day to the Lord, almost immediately upon waking, is the most effective way to set my heart and mind straight. Does is bring a perfect day, and perfect circumstances? No.
However, it does remind me that I serve my Heavenly Father, who formed my very being into existence. My maker knows the ins and outs of my brain, hormones, and really, my entire body. He has the most clear and unique window into what is going on, from the inside out.
Further, when my heart and mind are set on Him, rather than hyper-focused on my life’s problems, I find that the joy of Lord becomes louder than my somber mood.
In submission, I fall on my knees, and give Him my day. As I praise Him for His goodness, I also surrender my life, and my struggles to Him.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I ask that He would be my hands and feet, helping me to serve in the roles that He has blessed me with. Because He knows the challenges that I’m up against, even with depression. Further, I believe that He will equip me for that which he has called me to, regardless of circumstances.
In the hardest moments, even if it’s just that I don’t want to get off the couch to go make dinner, I like to picture Jesus taking me by the hand, and helping me up. We’re not alone friends, in the big things or the small, even when simple things feel too hard.
Submit it all to Him, and He will carry you through.
#2 Worship God & Get In The Word
I guess this is a two-part step in a way, however, if you think about it, you need both of these things to be in right relationship with God. And, you really need the first step that I mentioned too.
Worshipping God gets our eyes off of ourselves, and places them where they belong, on Him. Through worship, we give Him glory for His goodness in all things.
At the same time, reading the Bible, draws us closer to Him, in our understanding of who He is. It would be near impossible to stay in a slump, when pouring the word of God into our hearts and minds.
#3 Practice Gratitude Daily
When we focus on our blessings, instead of our feelings of sadness or discontentment, we begin to have a better outlook about life. Perhaps that’s why it’s often referred to as an ‘attitude of gratitude’.
In fact, there are plenty of studies showing that consistently practicing gratitude can actually change your brain in a positive way. It can increase overall contentment, reduce depression symptoms, and change your outlook on life.
Writing down 3 things, every day, that you’re grateful for can be extremely helpful. Side effects of this practice include a shift in perspective. You may even begin to have more appreciation for the little things in life.
Before long, a cardinal perched on a nearby tree, or the way the sunlight glistens over the water, or the warmth you feel when drinking out of a pretty tea cup, will have you feeling better in no time.
Even more, we should lift up these gratitudes to God, in praise for all his goodness, and all that he’s created and blessed us with.
#4 Surround Yourself With The Light
This step is so very necessary in winter seasons especially, because as much of creation rests around us, we tend to hibernate inside too much. This can get wearisome, and in some ways, we can feel overcome quickly by it all.
I share more about this step here, but basically it’s the best way I can describe how to lean in to the goodness that God has given us, when we feel so deeply the brokenness of this earth. When we are broken too, we must reach for the beauty that still exists here.
How can you surround yourself with the light?
- Sprinkle fairy lights and candle light all over your home, but especially where you spend the most time.
- Open your blinds or curtains every day to let the light in.
- Buy yourself a fresh bouquet of flowers each week and put them in a pretty vase.
- Surround yourself with beautiful art, and things that bring you joy.
- Keep uplifting, Christian music on in the background.
- Take up a hobby that you once enjoyed.
- Consume less news.
- Read books instead of scrolling on your phone, (especially your Bible).
- Don’t isolate, but instead spend time with sisters in Christ, who will encourage you.
- Volunteer or do something for someone else to bring them joy.
- Go for a quiet walk in the woods, and observe God’s creation.
- Get outside every single day.
When you put good practices into your daily routine, consistently, you will find that you feel better faster, and have a better outlook on life. This feeds into gratitude, and you will find joy returning to your life before long.
#5 Be Good To Your Body
A diet heavy in fast food, heavily processed foods and snacks, soda, alcohol, processed sugar, will as you probably know, leave you feeling awful. ‘You are what you eat’, as the saying goes.
So, in the same regard, a diet filled with vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, will leave you feeling much better. Life giving foods, give life. Whereas, overly processed foods and drinks will lead to inflammation, disease, and yes, they can also affect your mental health.
The better you eat, the better you will feel overall.
Exercise and movement are important too. Whether you go for a walk around your neighborhood, or at a park or forest preserve, this is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Prefer your treadmill? No shame in that game, the point is just to get moving!
Don’t forget to stretch. When your body feels good, you will mentally feel better. As someone who suffers from chronic pain, I know that when my pain is higher, my mood is lower. Stretching can help relieve aches and pains, which in turn can help with mood.
Whatever route you take to get moving, don’t stay in one place all day. Don’t lay in bed, don’t stay stuck to the couch, just don’t stay stuck. The more you get your body moving, the easier it will become day after day.
On this same topic of caring for your body, I always suggest getting some bloodwork done. It’s a good idea to check your vitamin D levels, as well as iron levels, especially if you suffer from heavy periods. You may need to add in some supplements, but talk this over with your doctor first.
#6 Use A Therapy Light
I don’t know the exact science behind using a therapy light, I just know that it has helped me over the years. It’s especially helpful in the winter months, when we can sometimes go days without seeing the sun.
However, this year, I felt the blues coming on in September, so I got the light out almost immediately, and put it to use for a few weeks. Before long, I didn’t feel the need to use it, but I do keep it out all fall and winter, just in case.
I will typically turn it on and sit next to it as I have my morning cup of coffee, and then again in the afternoon with some midday tea. I find that it does give me some added energy, and I don’t feel as weepy on the days I use it. Is it a placebo? I’m not sure, but it helps me!
These lights can be found pretty inexpensively on Amazon, so it can’t hurt to give it a try.
#7 Pamper Yourself
Seasonal Affective Disorder, and depression in general, can leave you feeling not so great about yourself. Self care can also be especially hard.
Now, for the moms out there, this can be a nightmarish combination. Because, as a moms, we tend to already neglect to put ourselves first in any way.
Because we give so much of ourselves to others at all times, we can be too exhausted to do much else. That said, whether you’re a mom, or not, when depression hits, it’s imperative that you make a point to do something just for you.
Whether it’s a warm bath in dim light, with a candle flickering away, or an extra long shower with some new bath products, or a trip to your favorite salon or spa; taking time to pamper yourself will go a long way in helping you to feel better.
Even painting your toenails while you listen to your favorite music can lift your spirit when you’re feeling down. A new haircut, or a new pair of shoes, or buying yourself a bouquet of flowers just might make you smile again.
If you have the resources to go get a massage, or spend a night away in a new environment, do it! You will never regret doing something nice for yourself, especially now.
#8 Don’t Isolate
I know you’d rather hide under the covers, and say no to every single invitation. You may even be tempted to wipe the calendar clean. However, please resist the urge to isolate.
Sure, cancelling something here and there is no big deal, but I can tell you this. For every time that I didn’t feel like doing the thing, or saying yes to showing up, I never regretted going, not once, not ever, despite how I felt.
Being around people feels like the worst possible idea when you’re depressed, but in most cases it’s exactly what you need. Especially if you can spend time with Christian women who will encourage you, point you to Christ, and help you along the way.
So, say yes, and go. But don’t be afraid to let them know you’re struggling. Who knows, you just may find out that they’re struggling too, or that they’ve been through it. We all need to know that someone understands!
#9 Don’t Give In To Your Feelings & Don’t Be Overcome By Them
The thing about feelings is, that they can sometimes lie to us. In terms of depression, we have to be very careful with feelings.
Depression can make you believe things that are absolutely not true, and we can get stuck, especially if we don’t speak up and reach out for help. It’s important to speak up for this reason.
Tell your spouse, your parent, your friend, your sibling, your doctor, your therapist, your pastor; tell someone. At the very least, call a hotline, but do something.
Whatever you do, don’t give into your feelings, and don’t be overcome by them. Recognize that the enemy can use your depression in an attempt to harm you. Pray against this, be proactive, and do everything that you can to get up from underneath this sticky illness.
#10 Don’t Lose Hope
The good news is this; there is hope! Every little step that you take toward health and healing, will become your recovery. You will feel better soon, because depression is a temporary affliction, especially when taking proactive steps.
With God’s help especially, you will get through this. And along the way, He will be with you always. Hang in there friend, you are not alone.
Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
Photo by Jill Wellington
For more resources and encouragement on the topic of depression, please check out my other articles: