Like most people, I have my emotional ups and downs.
I’ve just been very lucky, or blessed with good genetics, to have my mood swings rarely reach extremes.
All throughout my life, my lows have been mild and short-lived, while my highs have been generally free of giddy euphoria.
So imagine my surprise last October when this strange feeling of gloom settled over me and wouldn’t go away.
Like a cough I just couldn’t shake, I had a blue funk in my brain.
This had never happened to me before, so I didn’t recognize it as anything other than a symptom of poor sleep habits.
At one point, I thought it might be the longest case of jet lag ever.
It wasn’t until January that I considered my specific symptoms:
1. An overall tiredness and lack of energy
2. Difficulty waking up in the morning
3. Craving carbohydrates, especially pasta and bread
4. Difficulty completing tasks
5. Avoiding social situations
6. Trouble focusing
I remembered this fancy doo-hicky thing called the Internet and typed in some of my pronounced symptoms.
And there it was!
I discovered that I had a disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Pretty common this time of year, and so appropriately named.
Thankfully, my SAD wasn’t too SAD. I was just slightly SAD. But, still, an unusual thing for me to be feeling any of it. I’ve lived through 23 Idaho winters, and I don’t believe this one has been any grayer or colder than any of those others.
They say that sunlight works wonders for SAD sufferers, so the first sunny day we had in January, I made sure to be out there walking in it.
The combination of sun and exercise definitely lifted my spirits. And it made me think that the reason this winter was different for me was because I had embarked on an aggressive program of walking last spring, spending far more time outside in the sun than I ever have before.
Apparently, my body became addicted to long outdoor walks.
I think I’ve learned a lesson here. It’s not good to hibernate through the winter. It used to be fun to focus solely on indoor activities during these cold and snowy months, but now I realize how important it is to find some way to get out of the house and soak up the sun (if you can see it through the clouds).
And not just for me, but also for my kids. If they see me doing it, they’re more likely to join in. SAD for kids is especially dangerous, as it can negatively affect their self-esteem and lead to poor grades, isolation, and major depression.
So, pay attention to yourself. If you’re feeling out of sorts, do something about it. Don’t say, “Oh, it’ll pass when spring comes.” You’ll end up better prepared to observe your children and act accordingly when you suspect they might be suffering from this seasonal disorder.