SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder as it’s also known, is a seasonal form of depression that usually occurs in the winter months, when it’s much colder and darker throughout the day. Reduced amounts of light, warmth and the general drabness of winter can leave you feeling drained and downtrodden, but if these feelings occur at the same point every year and subside as spring and summer approach, then it’s very likely that you suffer from SAD. This depression can make it difficult to do anything, even something as seemingly simple as getting out of bed. To help you make those first few steps towards getting through winter, we’re here to provide some tips on how to motivate yourself to face the day.
How does SAD manifest?
Having SAD is more than being sad all the time. Depression also has physical side-effects, such as severe exhaustion, meaning you’re physically unable to summon the energy to pull yourself up and out of bed. Sometimes it can feel as if your muscles can’t switch on and certain physical ailments, such as joint and muscle fatigue, headaches, nausea and indigestion can occur. These symptoms can make the way you’re feeling emotionally even worse, as you struggle to keep up with your usual routines. An important thing to try to remember however, is that feeling this way isn’t a permanent state of being, so trying to push through in the best way you can is the ideal thing to do. Everyone has a different path towards recovery, but as Matt Lucas, comic actor and writer says, ‘Keep yourself busy if you want to avoid depression. For me, inactivity is the enemy.’ Easier said than done, of course, but a good piece of advice to keep in mind.
Make a checklist
When you have depression, even the little things can feel like major obstacles, and summoning the energy to go to work, or even just have a shower, can seem like an impossible demand. However, we all have things we need to do that can’t be organised from under the duvet, which is why acknowledging that you did get out of bed is a good step.
Noting your ability to get out of bed as an achievement is important in this situation, as is giving yourself a pat on the back for everything you manage to do after this point. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t do x, y and z today and instead appreciate all the things you did do. Write a checklist of all the things you usually do before you leave the house. This can include getting out of bed, showering, eating, brushing your teeth . . .once you have a visual representation of all the things you did manage to do, you’ll feel a lot better about your achievements that day.
Have SAD outside
There’s nothing that says getting out of bed has to mean that you have to feel better to do so. Accepting that you’re depressed but forcing yourself to be depressed outside is something you must get into the habit of doing. As psychologist Robert Wicks says, you should think, ‘Yes, I am depressed but I am going to be depressed outside. Activity and depression don’t like to live together.’ Try to stop thinking about getting up, and just do it instead.
It’s hard to find anything that can still make you happy when you have depression, as many of your favourite things might not cheer you up anymore. However, telling yourself you’ll do something that normally makes you smile, such as listening to music, eating a certain lunch, or shopping for a new treat if you just make it to work is a good trick.
Have a routine
Everyone dislikes the fact that they have to work. However, having structure to our days is exactly what can stop us from floundering for a purpose in our lives, and means we appreciate time spent outside of work all the more. Having a structure to your week is the first step towards recovery, whether it’s in the form of a job, regular volunteering or a particular class. Not only does it get you out of bed, but it means you interact with others and have some respite from being inside your own head.
Break it down
Splitting your day into more manageable chunks is also a good way to help minimise any panic about doing things in the day. If you tell yourself to only handle the next 15 minutes, you may feel that you worry less about what you will be doing for the entire day. Michelle, from Project Beyond Blue, ‘break[s] things down into tiny, tiny steps’, saying things like ‘I don’t have to go to work, I just need to get on the train.’ She says that she then feels as if she can back out at any moment, if things were to become too much.
What helps you get out of bed when your SAD feels too overwhelming? Let us know your tips in the comments section.