Winter break is over. The holidays came and went. Now you’re back into your school routine but you feel so stinking sad and blue! This feeling may not be a result of post-holiday blues.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real struggle. It’s when you enter into a state of depression during the colder months. It will typically pass as the season changes, but during this cold, dark, dreary season, it’s important to care for yourself so you’re not consumed with sadness. However, when you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of emotions and sadness, caring for yourself seems like the last thing you want to do.
So, if you’re experiencing any of the following, you might be experiencing SAD:
- Increase of sleep or sleepiness in winter months
- Overeating, especially foods high in starch
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating and processing information in the afternoon
- Social withdrawal
There are practical suggestions that will move you through this season by helping to lift your spirits. But if you can’t even find the energy to move toward those activities, then what good do they do? First, you have to deal with the sadness. You have to enter into your sadness in order to come out on the other side with a desire to grow.
Really analyze what’s going on in your life. What’s causing the sadness? What in your life is making you feel this way? Is it your current situation? Is it something that happened in the past? Is it a loss of hope? Is it a fear or anger? There are so many things that can cause an overwhelming amount of sadness, so be real with yourself.
If you’re willing and able, talk to someone about your sadness: a parent, a counselor, youth pastor, God or even yourself. Talking can help you process your emotions. Or, consider journaling about what you’re feeling and why. Don’t dwell on the pain, but understand that it is real and you are the person experiencing these feelings. That means you’re the person who has to overcome. You can’t wait for other people to change your feelings. Spend the time needed to fully enter into your sadness. As you work through the sadness, contemplate your desires, don’t squelch them. But don’t force them either. When you sense a strong desire for change, then consider some practical steps to help you get out of your funk. When you’re ready, ask God for His strength to walk through some of the following activities (He truly is the only thing that can help you overcome your emotional struggles):
When you’re ready to think beyond your sadness, pick out some people in your life and shower them with love. You were created to demonstrate your love to others, so when you’re able to operate the way God intended, not burdened by suffocating emotions, you’ll become more aware of your true identity as well as what you’re capable of. Demonstrating your love for others is a reflection of who you are. When you’re able to care for people out of an awareness of your heart’s sorrow (not as a means to ignore or minimize it) true healing, strength and power can be realized. Here’s some idea on how you can show your love to others. These ideas are meant to help you creatively embrace love, by no means are they meant for you to go-through-the-motions in hopes that you feel loved as a result:
- Show people you love them.
People love to feel loved and appreciated. Don’t you? Even silly things can brighten someone’s day. Try leaving unexpected notes; leave one on the dining room table, on a mirror with a dry-erase marker or lipstick, on a friend’s car or on the back of a photo like a postcard…the options are endless! Be creative and have fun!
- Start a tradition with friends or family.
Perhaps you could start a tradition of having a cocoa date with your mom. Or plan a night to give your little sister a manicure or set aside time to specifically listen to Uncle Bob’s crazy and endless stories. Traditions aren’t just for the holidays, so seek out new opportunities because they’re waiting to happen everywhere. Just think of how special you’d feel if someone went out of her way to make you feel loved for no reason…and then wanted to do it every single year!
- Reach out to a stranger.
Check out volunteering opportunities to share your gifts and talents to those who need a compassionate smile or friendly touch. Reach out to someone at school or a clerk at your local grocery store to ask them, with intention, how their day is going. Don’t accept a “fine,” ask them to elaborate and take the time to listen to the great accomplishments or significant struggles they’re facing today.
- Spend time loving God.
God is the creator of love and enjoys when you allow him to lavish His love on you. Journal or create a collage representing what God means to you. Play worship music, read His Word or a book about Him and just rest in His presence. Take note of all the gifts He’s given you and thank and praise Him for each one. Chat about what He’s doing in your life with a girlfriend. Let His love for you fill you with energy as your experience the warmth of His arms wrapped around you as you go about your day.
- Love yourself.
By encouraging yourself and reflecting on your true beauty and worth, you’ll stop dwelling on the negative. When you focus on the negative you’re allowing evil to pull you down which affects other people. But, as you spend time loving yourself, you’ll be loving the person God created you to be and in turn will be loving God. This will take your focus off yourself and place your focus on Him. So, do what you enjoy and give yourself to a special treat!
Get out of your world.
Once you’ve faced your sadness and are willing to muster up the energy to pocket some suggestions, we have a few for you to consider. However, overcoming depression is not about a check-list of to-dos. The more you work at it, it isn’t necessarily going to become easier. You have to be willing to first deal with the issues. So, if you begin to feel like a failure after participating in any of these activities, stop! You are not a failure. Face your emotions rather than try to bury your heart’s responses under distracting services. Do not treat these activities as a bandage you can place over a small boo boo, in hopes that it will all go away.
- Try something new!
Breaking the monotony can make a huge impact on your mood. Ever wonder how to make those cookies the neighbor down the street always bakes? Go learn! Don’t understand why no one has ever opened that yoga DVD sitting next to the TV? Try it out! It’s the perfect time to start a new hobby or work on the DIY project that’s been sitting in your room since Summer break. If your hobby just can’t be done in the winter months it’s the perfect time to check it out online, or better yet, request some books from the library to learn more about it and make future plans.
Take up scrapbooking, write some silly poetry, write a letter, sing outside the shower, do jumping jacks, finger paint, start a blog, journal, learn an instrument, play board games, read the book collecting dust on your shelf, do a spiritual evaluation, plan a hike, write a family newsletter, learn to cook your favorite meal, sign up for a local race, look into activities to do next year, research colleges, talk to your siblings, personalize your room, or find new bands you might enjoy.
- Increase the amount of light in your home.
Open blinds, or convince mom and dad to buy you that cool lamp you just saw at Ikea.
- Get outside.
Walk outdoors on sunny days, even during winter. Go sledding, tubing, have a snowball fight or enjoy other winter sports to get some sun. Vitamin D, which comes from the sun, is a great treatment, so if the sun isn’t shining during your outdoor activity, ask your mom to add Vitamin D supplements to her grocery list.
- Exercise regularly.
Physical exercise helps relieve stress and anxiety, which can accentuate SAD. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself. Check out our Eccentric Eccentrics article for some great in-door workout ideas, and call up a friend to be your fitness buddy!
- Find ways to relax.
Learn how to better manage stress. Give yourself a mani/pedi, ask your mom to scratch your back, take a bubble bath or enjoy your favorite book.
- Take a trip.
If possible, take a winter vacation, even if it’s just to visit relatives, or a short day trip over the weekend. The change of scenery can bring about positive experiences, which may help push away the seasonal blues.
…and be sure to let others love you! You are an incredible, fun, beautiful person with a lot of people who love and care for you. Let them show you and enjoy the ways they share their love with you. So, go to that party you were invited to because someone really does want you there. Or, go with Dad when he suggests a trip to the hardware store, this is his way of inviting you to the “mall.” There are people waiting to be loved, activities waiting to be started and love waiting to be received…stop waiting.
For more information on SAD, check out the following websites: