I think by now most of us who live in British Columbia, Canada, have realized that summer weather is done. The rain seems to have come early this year, and with its steady fall the warm and cozy slowly emerges in the form of more days spent inside, favourite sweaters, and steamy comforting foods! I’ve always found the transition from summer sun to rain really difficult. It doesn’t help that where I live in the Lower Mainland, about 8 months or more of the year are filled with grey and rain.
The rain starts falling and I usually feel like a plant wilting, my energy seeps away, and my motivation falters.
We all have mental health, it’s part of being human, but some of us go through seasons where we need to spend more time investing in our mental wellbeing. We need to be extra kind to ourselves, and take measures to ensure we’re healthy, especially if mental illness is something we’re prone to.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is something I am prone to catching in the grey months. It’s kind of like the common cold of mental health for me. If I don’t actively work to keep myself healthy I suddenly find myself fatigued, a little down, and struggling to keep up with my day to day.
It’s taken me years to call the energy drain I’d always feel over most fall and winter months what it is, but now that it has a name (SAD), it makes so much more sense, and developing a game plan is easier.
Most of us know that the fall is flu season, and the flu as well as the pesky common cold run a bit more rampant. We never intentionally try to get sick with anything, we wash our hands, take vitamin C, try to eat and sleep properly, a lot of us protect ourselves with the flu vaccine. So why not take the same approach with mental health?
I know that as the rain starts to fall more heavily and sunny days become rare, and then extinct, I am going to need to be more intentional in warding off SAD, and keeping my mental health on track. I want to continue to live my healthiest life, meet the goals I set, and show up for my community. So here are some practical steps I am taking to help protect my mental health this fall.
1) Taking Vitamin D- Your body naturally produces Vitamin D when it is exposed to direct sunlight. Vitamin D has a lot of important benefits to overall health, and many studies have shown that it plays an important role in regulating mood and fighting depression and anxiety. So for me when the sun goes away the vitamin D comes out. Most pharmacies carry vitamin D, and the supplement comes in lots of different forms, talk to your doctor to get an idea of what the best dose and type for you might be.
2) Keep Moving- This applies to a few different arenas of life. First is physical movement. Exercise releases endorphins and they can cause positive feelings. The more you can get out and stay active the better for your mental and physical health. Keeping moving also applies to goals and routines. Some days routines may look drastically different, especially if it’s one of those days where getting out of bed is difficult. Keep going though and give yourself grace. Make big goals smaller and just do what you can. Keep moving and celebrating every small step, even washing your face and brushing your teeth are successes somedays.
3) Find Your Community- Be open and honest with your friends and family about what you’re facing. Chances are some of them also experience the same challenges. Make a plan with your people that includes ways they can support you on the really tough days, and ways they can celebrate with you when you are feeling better. Surround yourself with people who will help you be mindful, and will encourage and nurse you back to health.
When we get physically sick and aren’t recovering we don’t hesitate to touch base with our doctor. The same should go for when we are mentally sick. If any type of mental illness gets to be too much, talking to a specialist is always a good choice. You may have heard the saying “not all bugs need drugs”, this is talking about how bacterial infections need antibiotics but viral infections don’t. It’s best to let a doctor diagnose and help you decide treatment instead of making things worse and taking something that won’t effectively help you fight what you have.
The same goes with mental health, not all mental health concerns will need to be treated with medication, but if things are not getting better it’s best to get help and to explore all possible treatment options. None are bad or wrong, we all need different things to keep healthy- it’s better to find the best plan for you than to suffer through.
Talking about mental health is important, keep the conversation going with those you trust and live your most holistically healthy life this fall.