How to Deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Today’s guest author is April Graham, who homesteads 100% off grid with her family in the Blue Mountain/Eagle Cap range. Thousands of people are affected by the changing of the seasons, a disorder called S.A.D., and it seems to affect people the most when summer violently swings into winter. Yeah I know fall comes before winter or well it is supposed to but each year around my parts anyhow we go straight from summer to winter then right back into summer!   coldcreekhomestead I have noticed that with this the winters really were getting me down more than they ever had before so instead of being afraid of the dark I took a step back and acknowledged what winter means beyond the sun hanging lower and the snow flying around like an out of control destructive teenager. So if you find yourself kicking around metaphorical rocks and watching your feet while feeling humdrum maybe some of the things I do to coexist with the marvelous season that is winter can help you! Okay so I’m a human and I’m willing to bet you are too so I’m not going to do a “TOP TEN LIST!” because well let’s just have a conversation, that and I am better at rambling than making power point presentation blog lists. Anyhoo alright winter, all too often I see the phrase “getting through the winter” or I “can’t wait till spring!” yeah I love spring too but poor old man winter is just not being appreciated and I feel that this leads to us feeling like crap in the winter quite frankly. I mean if your excited about let’s say reading a book those pages go faster than you ever expected and you can’t wait to read it again or for the next in the series to come out BUT if you have to read some book that you just really don’t want to but have zero choice in the matter turning every page is like lifting concrete and your pretty sure this book is out to kill you with a paper cut that is sure to get a nasty infection and you know exactly how many damn hours of your life were lost. Now think of that last rambling as winter and ask yourself which scenario you want to live in for the next 6 months (Remember I live in NE OR) or however short your winter is! I don’t know about you but I’m picking number one for my own sanity folks. In all seriousness winter is a time to pull into yourself, home, loved ones, cooking thick butter rich foods, working on your craft or trade in a slower more intricate pace and yes a time for good books filled with life escaping stories and never ending knowledge. It is also a time to nourish our bodies a bit deeper and listen to what we have to say to ourselves. When I took this approach after having a very sad and sick winter the next winter was amazing I mean nothing spectacular happened but I was pretty happy and I looked forward to this winter! The first step I took was to acknowledge my bodies needs beyond what food could give me and I started a heavy vitamin D3 regiment in the fall (never too late to start) and built up my sunshine levels so they never had a chance to drop I have no idea of the % of people who have depression due to them lacking in vitamin D3 but I have read a ton of times how big of a contributor it is and even more so in winter but I’m guessing a lot of you already know about D3. The stuff is pretty amazing even if you are as happy as a pig in a lard come winter you may want to consider taking it anyhow! Then I thought about my mental health and not in a “scientific” way in a simple safe herbal way and I added tincture of Saint John’s wart to my morning routine, it is a wonderful mood booster and a gentle herb which makes it safe to take daily. Now one thing people often think about in the winter but don’t connect often to happiness is your immune system! If you help your immune system it will help you and I’m not just talking about when you get a cold or the like but if your body is run down (you don’t have to be sick to have a stressed immune system) you are not going to have very good energy levels and if you are sad and tired you are more prone to getting sick and if you are sick you are more prone to depression and if you are depressed you are sincerely prone to chronic illness and diseases, So every morning and in the evening I add wild elderberry tincture to my routine elderberry is a natural antiviral one of few berries that are. Oh tea my darling tea how you hold my hand in the cold and dark and make me feel so loved and warm inside this IS my routine in the pre-dawn when I am up at the last before light time to once again stack the wood stove down and leave the dampers open to take off the nights chill before the rest of my family arises I put on the pot of water pick what my body craves to drink fill my cotton tea bag place it in a smooth earthy mug and add raw honey and a healthy splash of elderberry tincture and let that cup steep on the wood stove until light begins to peak in. This is so important to me I allow myself to slowly wake up even if I lose a few hours of sleep I gain it back in a calm productive state of mind through the entire day. I usually have rose hip tea but I also love rooibose tea, I stay away from caffeine calm down a moment haha and hear what I have to say about caffeine it is not your friend when you jolt awake and bolt for caffeine you are feeding a perpetual addiction of tiredness. It absolutely taxes your body and causes drowsiness when you go through detox! Which is why my friends you can’t function in the morning without it you are going through detox but I’m not here to take away anyone’s coffee BUT if you do suffer in the winter caffeine is not your friend. The same goes for black tea it also is just as bad, all caffeine is taxing on your entire system especially your kidneys and gut health. Now another thing I do is make my environment extremely conducive to relaxation every couch and chair is covered with soft gentle blanket and comfy pillow or three, I use soft lights well living off grid I use oil lamps but even before we went off grid we used oil lamps they are so soft and just allow you to exist it a soft way. We do have all of the blinds open to allow as much wintertime light is as possible but one thing I do is close them before the sun sets all the way it’s a physiological thing for me anyhow I decide it’s time to be in the dark (yeah I know it’s gana get dark regardless lol) and cozy up to my own darkness. I always have a deep soul grabbing book laying around actually I have a lot of them and it is wonderful when you have the time to curl up under one of those cozy blankets and let yourself slip away into the warmth that is your home and imagination of a good book. Food is so much more than nutrition it can feed you and then it can “feed” you, no you should not fill your sadness with food but it should be comforting in the dark cold days. I mean there is nothing more warming than a thick hardy stew with hot bread smothered in REAL butter you can easily make this a healthy food but feeling full and warm is conducive to feeling safe and sound. But on the flip side nutrition wise you do need more healthy fats in the winter than in the summer and I personally stick to real fats only your body knows if it is fake! While we do eat our greens in the winter we truly eat our potatoes, squash, turnips, nuts, organ meats, cheese butter and don’t dab the fat off of the bacon before stirring it into the fried cabbage! A craft that is relaxing is a craft that is healing I love to spin yarn as a matter of fact I rarely knit or the like I just create the yarn it is an art in itself and it is a quiet hands on textural one. I find if I allow myself I am much more creative in the winter especially if I have turned my home into a warm winter cave and when spring does peek it head out and the markets open up I have glut of beautiful crafted in comfort goods to offer. In an ideal world we would always be close to our families but in the warmer months we get busy no matter what your life trade. While we may be next to our kids all summer long working and yes playing we are often well working hard and sleeping hard. So in the winter we pull in tight and spend a lot of time just being with each other. After all come winter all we can really do is overwinter the animals, chores are down to a minimum when compared with summer! Now of course we spend as much time as we can outside it is really important to acclimate to the season isn’t it so funny how we want it 50*f inside in the summer when its hot out but in the winter we keep the house around 70+*F when it’s cold out. So I really make it a point to allow my body to actually know it is winter out! For example it’s been well below the 20’s for weeks so the past few days when it has been hitting the high 30’s all I have on to protect me from the “cold” is a light sweater and I’m perfectly fine. I went to town today and saw people bundled up like we are in the arctic! They spend all winter hiding from the cold, yes my house is warm (wood stove) but I don’t blast the heat in the car and cover myself in layer upon layer just to do a few outside chores unless it is in the teens and even then it’s mainly my hand toes and head that are bundled. These things have really helped me look forward to the long nights and short days of winter because let’s be honest we do need a slow paced season in life for our own well being!

You can read more of April’s homesteading blog here, or check out her gorgeous handmade crafts at her Etsy store.

reprinted with permission from Cold Creek Homestead