For most people, the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year.
The weather is nicer, they get to spend time with their loved ones, they get time off of work, and don't get me started on holiday food!
However, it's a bit of a different story for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that starts and ends around the same time each year. It's more common around the fall and winter months, it's more common in women than men (but don't use this statistic as a reason to invalidate men's experiences), and it can be caused by a multitude of factors.
Personally, mine stems from the mental health issues I already have year-round, a traumatic relationship I was in during the holiday season 4 years ago, and the lack of sunlight causing me to become groggy and lose my energy.
Mine always starts around Thanksgiving and ends on March 1st on the dot. During that time, I withdraw socially, I have difficulty concentrating, my mood is all over the place, I either gain or lose lots of weight, and I have a hard time coming out of my room.
If this sounds like you, keep in mind it's not your fault. It's not "all in your head"; it's a real mental health issue that may require treatment.
Even if I can't avoid the inevitable depressed episode coming around the corner, I can at least try to cope with it. Therefore, I want to share some of my holiday tips and tricks with people who struggle the way I do during the holiday season.
Redefine what the holidays mean to you.
I've always viewed the holidays as the anniversary of the most abusive relationship I've ever been in, a time of weird schedules and way too much idle time. However, I want to redefine the holidays in a positive way this year.
This doesn't mean invalidating your experiences, but it does help. Define the holidays as a reason to spend time with loved ones, a time to relax and take off of work, etc. Once you redefine the holiday season positively, it will help you get excited for when it comes!
Plan fun holiday-themed activities with your friends. I don't usually associate the holidays with fun, but I associate my friends with fun, so I am able to (at least try to) connect the holidays with fun.
Bake Halloween sugar cookies with your friends while having an Addams Family watch party. Go apple picking. Pick pumpkins at a pumpkin patch. Host a Friendsgiving or Christmas party. Being surrounded by good people and good food will help you get out of the holiday funk even if it's just for a few hours.
Treat yourself to holiday-themed purchases. Buy that Christmas sweater you've been eyeing at Target. Grab yourself a gingerbread latte from Starbucks. Light a holiday candle to compliment a bubble bath. The holidays are for treats anyway, right?
Try a new holiday recipe. Bake pumpkin bread, cook a new stuffing recipe, make Santa-shaped pancakes, etc. If you're trying to eat healthier like me, find a vegan or low-calorie recipe to try.
Communicate with those around you about what you're dealing with. Even if they don't have S.A.D., they can listen to you and help you through it to the best of their abilities.
They can take you on fun holiday outings or simply watch movies with you at home when you don't have the energy to go out.
Even though Seasonal Affective Disorder cannot be avoided completely, there are things we can do this holiday season to ease the funk we experience when it rolls around.
Don't hesitate to reach out for help this holiday season. Call your therapist, your friends or your parents.
You are not alone; I am right there with you.