Thursday, 11 December 2014
Here we are with about two weeks to go until the 'happiest time of year' - Christmas. This year I am conflicted. In truth, I have been conflcited about Christmas for about the past ten years or so. I used to be one of those people who adored every single thing about the season. Not so much anymore.
As I have gotten older, my feelings towards the season have changed. There are plenty of reasons for this. As I have grown older I have seen that it's not an easy time for many people, some of those people being close family members. Although I love finding the perfect gift for someone, I have become tired of the excessive commercialism that is all around us. And I admit, I have fallen into the shopping trap time and again, partly because it has given me a temporary emotional lift. Unfortunately, the emphasis is on temporary - you don't feel so great when you see your credit card statement or bank balance afterwards.
The other big thing that has impacted me over the last decade or so has been depression. I have spent the better part of ten years in an almost constant state of depression. Sometimes mild, sometimes deep, it was always there. The thing with depression is that intellectually you realize that you should feel happy about something but emotionally and physically it is simply impossible. Sometimes you put on that mask and carry on as best as you can and sometimes you withdraw and let the darkness enfold you like a heavy cloak.
This year I am not in a severe depression - I thank my lucky stars for that gift every single day. But I am feeling a bit low and I think I can attribute that to the horrible weather and a very busy Autumn. So let's talk a bit about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It's a real thing but what does it look like?
* Feeling sad, grumpy, moody or anxious
* Losing interest in your usual activities
* Eating more and craving carbohydrates
* Gaining weight
* Lethargy, lacking in energy, unable to carry out a normal routine
* Sleeping more amd feeling drowsy during the daytime
I can definitely check a few things on that list and maybe you can too. As a person with a chronic illness, I have to be hyper-vigilant with my mental health. So what to do?
Light Box Therapy: These small boxes emit a light that is meant to mimic natural sunlight. They have proven to be very effective for those who suffer from SAD. They cost around $200 so they aren't inexpensive but check with your workplace benefits program (if you have one) - many plans cover part or all of the cost of a light box. If you can't afford a light box then try to sit by a window as often as you can.
Sleep: Get enough rest! It's such a hectic time of year and it can be challenging to get enough sleep but try to keep to a regular routine. Sleep is an essential element of overall physical and mental well being.
Eat Well: Boring, I know! However, you can't argue with the fact that eating well and ensuring that you drink enough water and get your vitamins is essential to wellness.
Get Outside: When the weather is not great and you are feeling down it can be so hard to motivate yourself to leave the house. I speak from experience when I say that even a quick walk around the block can do wonders for your mood. A walk in nature is even better!
Back to Christmas for a moment. Even though I seem to have The Grinch sitting on one shoulder and Buddy the Elf on the other, doing battle for my Christmas Spirit, I think I am going to try to shift things in favour of Buddy. How am I going to do that? I am going to focus on what I love about Christmas and eliminate all the rest. So that means that my gifts will mostly come from local craft fairs & artists. I will enjoy the Christmas lights that are adorning homes and businesses. And I will hug my niece and nephew, my baby brother, and my mom and dad. And I will give thanks to all those who have helped me on my journey to mental wellness over the past ten years.
Yes, maybe come Christmas I will be sharing Buddy the Elf's simple childlike joy in the season once again. After all, even The Grinch came around in the end.
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