During my first winter living in Greece, it snowed, and not just in the mountains but also three miles from the seaside. Who knew it snowed in Greece? Not me. I quickly learned I had to prepare for a cold unlike I had ever experienced in LA. I also learned that I had no real winter clothes – thin leggings, jackets that don’t button and fingerless gloves all had to go. With proper winter clothes and packing on the layers, I survived the winter. But emotional and mental survival – that’s a different story.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real and debilitating for many people. As the temperature plummets and the sun shows up less, so do their moods and smiles. From experience, emotionally surviving the winter does not come not from trying to change who you are, but by figuring out how to best support yourself during this time. I’ll share a few tips that have helped me overcome the seasonal blues.
First, when the sun is out, make sure you get out and feel those rays on your face. Chase the sun during these months, properly dressed of course. When you reach her, close your eyes, smile and breathe her in. (If you’re as pale as me, you may still need some light SPF on your face.)
Second, be kind to yourself. Figure out what makes you feel nice. It sounds simple, but it can be those simple, little things that can bring comfort. For example, having a cup of your favorite tea or homemade soup, taking a hot bath or shower, lighting a fire or candle. I encourage you to explore little things that bring you joy. Being kind to yourself also includes honoring your ups and downs. Our energy level changes throughout the day as well as throughout the year. It’s natural to have a period of time when you need to more rest and for many people, that time is winter. Refueling and restoring takes putting yourself first. It’s not selfish; it’s necessary to remain healthy and to continue to give, if that’s your goal. Winter will pass, as it always does, the need to restore will pass and I hope it all passes kindly.
Lastly, consider adapting to a yin yoga practice. I won’t go much into the Taoist concept of yin and yang, opposite and complementary principles in nature. Simply put, when you think yin think black, cool, night, winter, moon, calm and slow. When you think yang, think white, warmth, day, spring/summer, sun and movement. If you have never seen the yin/yang symbol, there is a little circle of white (yang) in the black (yin) and vice versa, symbolizing that not everything is all or purely yin or yang. There is a balance and your job is to find your balance; you need some yin in your yang and some yang in your yin.
If you find it hard to move your body and get to your mat, developing a yin yoga practice may be helpful. A slower, supported, seated and lying practice allows the body to get the stretching it needs to stay open; the nervous system gets the breath it needs to calm down, and everything, including the soul, gets restored. Maybe after yin yoga you will feel refreshed enough to move into some yang yoga like vinyasa or hatha, but only if your body is calling for it. Hard-core and yang are not always the goal, and when what you really need is to restore, such intense movement can potentially do more damage. The goal is to give the body what it needs in that moment, which will be different every day and every time within a day that you step, or sit, onto your mat.
Just because it’s darker outside does not mean we have to get darker inside. And if you do, that’s okay… I hope you find little things that help you feel better, that you honor your needs and take care of yourself, and when you can, that you get some sunshine and a smile on your face.
Sending my love and support on your journey,
*Please note that I am not a doctor. If you think you may be struggling with S.A.D. and especially if you suffer from depression, then please, for yourself, make an appointment to see a specialized doctor, like a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.