and thoughts on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This post nicely follows on from my This time of year post, published a couple of Sundays back.
In England, we call the season of Fall, Autumn. I find this curious, especially as - in the United States - Autumn happens to be a name that's used for girls. In fact, according to Wikipedia, one that's used quite a lot:
And yet, I've never met a single British girl or woman (or man, for that matter), named Autumn. Weird, eh?
For the last couple of years, I've become really aware of how my mood changes around this time of year. In fact, the last 3 years before this year, I’ve had a wobble - each year, without fail - around November or December time.
It's as if something happens in my body, in my brain... no, my soul. I know that sounds deep. But that's kinda what it feels like is happening.
I guess what really made me observe this was when, back in 2016, my mental health took a turn for the worse after a series of things happened (short version: my Masters finished, my 1st business failed) right about this time of year.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) isn't uncommon, my psychiatrist told me. So I read all about SAD and was like "Yeah, that's me". Some articles even alluded to the fact that SAD affects us all, that we're all somewhere along 'the spectrum'.
Hmm. That would make sense. And I then observed how every year since then, something happens around this time of year. Sometime around mid-Autumn (mid-Fall), when Summer feels well behind us and the days get shorter, colder and cloudier.
And it's not just one thing which characterises this for me. I can't quite put my finger on it, but here's a bunch of stuff that I tend to experience sometime around this time of year, around the time that the clocks change to mark the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST):
I feel more sleepy.
I need more sleep. I find myself wanting to stay in bed for longer. When I used to work in the City, dragging myself out of bed was even more difficult than usual. I felt groggy. Waking up whilst it was still dark outside and the street-lights were still on just… didn’t feel right. The only time that would feel slightly more acceptable was when it was snowing outside, which is a very, very, very rare occurrence here in London. #StillHopingForAWhiteChristmas
I feel more irritable.
It feels like I need my own space more so than ever. I don't want to be around people, in fact even less so than normal. I want to stay in and read, or write, or watch something on TV, or play PlayStation. Ah, I'm thinking about Christmas as I write this and the feeling of being indoors, watching something Christmassy and the country - and my family - all being off and just relaxing and enjoying this festive time of year. (My family are allowed to in the house, I just want them to leave me alone a bit more than usual, haha).
I'm more prone to being (and feeling) unwell.
This tends to be blamed at this time of year on 'the change in weather, bugs flying around' but it feels like my immune system just isn't as strong as at this time of year. Like I need hot drinks more (I'm drinking a coffee today, a hot coffee, which I don't do often), and hot food, and vitamin tablets. I remember mum used to religiously give me and my bro a spoonful of Cod Liver Oil (remember that, anyone?!) in the Winter. I did pick up a cold last week which I'm still trying to shake completely off, and I've been drinking warm turmeric milk and also taking echinacea tablets.
I'm more prone to freaking out over life's big questions.
This happened this week. My mood already feels like it had dipped following ‘5 hours of meetings’ day. Or maybe it had just dipped because of the change in season, thinking about it... who knows. And then I watched Undone (following INFJ Brad’s recommendation) which I loved and hit me pretty hard but reminded me of how freaking different I feel and how others don't seem to understand my INF-ness. These last few weeks and months have been uncertain work-wise and money-wise and I've been coping remarkably well, but it feels like things have fallen apart recently. I'm slowly getting my sh*t back together, but it was frightening to feel myself slipping again... and, come to think of it, these slips have consistently happened at this time of year, each year for the last four (as mentioned at the start of the article).
Earlier, I mentioned 2016 when I took a mental health turn and had to see my psychiatrist and was told I had depression and anxiety. Well, the year before that, at this very time of year my yearning to get out of the City reached its climax. Again, those feelings came up at this time of year. I felt really unhappy and overwhelmed and like I needed to get OUT big-time. (Which I did just a few months later).
I feel more of a need to relax my body and mind.
Gradually in recent weeks, I've been leaning more into stretching and yoga. 5 years ago, I would have ONLY been doing weights in the gym, machines and free weights. Now, when I'm not doing a yoga or stretch/flexibility class at the gym, I make sure I incorporate that into my workout; and even on my 'workout' days, I lean more into work on the mat, body weights and some cardio. Again, right now, I feel a yearning to do more of the body-and-mind exercise, rather than heart-pumping muscle-building exercise.
In fact, last week, I did 2 stretch classes and a yoga class, with just some weights-stuff at the weekend. A few years ago, I’d have been doing heavy weights 3-5 times a week.
Gratitude is something I try to lean more into, every day with the 6 Minute Journal (well, most days), and right now I have to admit I am feeling very grateful for my family.
This week whilst I've had a dip in mood and felt really overwhelmed and alone, my family has been really perceptive, understanding and caring.
Dad has been making more of an effort - he bought me doughnuts, and books, and is showing he cares in his special little ways.
Mum has been very worried, and has been doing even more than usual, and has also organised a family theatre trip next week, and invited me to Kew Gardens yesterday for me to have a change of scene. She also cooked a delicious dinner last night, like she does many nights.
And bro invited me to play Playstation with him last night (he rarely does that), and send me a cute, heartfelt tweet yesterday.
I love them all, and I am so grateful to them for showing me they care and doing their best to lift me and my mood.
What about you?
With this post, I really wanted to share what happens to me and my mood at this time of year. This is so often given the general term 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' but, as I tweeted about recently (and it was that tweet which prompted this post, in fact), it feels like more than just Seasonal Affective Disorder.
It feels like us sensitives/intuitives/feelers (INFPs and INFJs, that's us!), experience this time of year in particular ways which others may not necessarily experience nor be able to relate to.
Does your mood change this time of year? Do you notice anything strange that happens, anything that happens only this time of year (or, more often/powerfully), or otherwise any ways in which you feel different?
Some other stuff…
I've been getting all the feels whilst listening to movie music on Spotify. My soul has been nourished by theme music from Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars whilst writing this. Songs from movies are amongst my favourites music to chill, relax and write to.
If you’re on Spotify (I’ve recently switched from iTunes), check it out here.
💛 HeartsRiseUp podcast
After appearing on Cat’s podcast recently, I’ve also been a guest on a 2nd podcast, belonging to my friend and fellow INFP Carol Chapman. Our conversation was centred around ‘The beautiful gifts of highly sensitive introverts’, but we covered all sorts of stuff. Listen to the episode over here, or on your favourite podcast platform (e.g. iTunes, Spotify).
💁🏼 My friend Katy…
… made my heart sing and feel so understood when she invited me to her Halloween party and sent this in a follow-up message on WhatsApp. I was so grateful.
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