It’s well-established that I do not like the summer months. However, every single Fall, when the nights start coming earlier and I start waking up at 7am to pitch black outside… I’m shocked. I always kind of forget how early it gets dark in the Fall and Winter.
And as much as I love Fall, it is kind of a bummer to wake up totally in the dark every single morning. It can be really hard to start happy & healthy with such early nights and late mornings.
I live in Oregon, which can also be a bit dismal the entire Winter: it can be rainy & cloudy for days, weeks, months at a time. And without any snow, there isn’t even any cheery winter vibes either. Just rain, just clouds, just dark mornings spent driving in the rain. I know many can relate when I say that it can get old fast; it can make days feel longer; and it can make your mood go south fast, especially if you’re pre-disposed depression.
People often ask (not just me, but everyone) how to deal with seasonal affective disorder, or just how to deal with those dismal, dark mornings and evenings. I thought I’d share a few tips that have helped me over the years—so I can love Fall without being miserable.
1. Invest in a good light therapy lamp.
A few years ago, Danny & I bought a Happy Lamp, a light therapy lamp, at Costco and it was a total game changer for both of us. We both noticed that during the winter, we both got sluggish and tired. (This has only increased since we had Forrest and I’m beginning to suspect it’s just my life now.) But the Happy Lamp worked a lot: we would turn it on in the evening as we sat and watched TV, or worked in our office. Within a few weeks, we noticed a marked improvement in our moods.
We’ve used it religiously ever since.
We moved in July and now have separate offices, so I’m looking to buy my own light therapy lamp. As I said, we bought ours at Costco and it was around $40, totally worth it. It’s not a sun lamp, exactly, but mimics the light from the sun to help us get more vitamin D. I’ve found a few contenders, but I think I’ll be purchasing this one for my office this year.
2. Establish a routine that brings you joy.
For me, this is:
Light a candle
Take a bath
Read a good book
On days where the darkness is just getting to me, this helps me feel better and break me out of the cycle. It might be different for you though! This definitely isn’t prescriptive. Doing something that makes you happy, that comforts you, is perfect for those dark mornings and evenings. So whether you’re starting your morning with something you love (like going for a run) or ending your day with a good self-care ritual (like a face mask and painting your toenails), find something that brings you joy to lessen the darkness.
3. Get outside.
“But Michelle! It’s pouring down rain/snowing/20 degrees below 0!”
Ok, extreme weather not-withstanding, go outside. I promise! Really! Taking a 10 minute walk outside is better than sitting inside your house until it gets dark, then feeling miserable. Put on a good podcast, lace up your sneakers (or invest in a very good pair of rain boots), and go outside.
4. Talk to your doctor.
If you notice yourself getting really miserable and struggling with how late the dark starts and how early it ends, talk to your doctor.
In the US, seeking mental health help can often be a huge pain in the ass; it’s not accessible to everyone, which is why I’m sharing some other ways to help yourself. But I’m not a doctor! If you’re really struggling, antidepressants might make Fall & Winter just that much more doable for you this year.