wE'Re AlL mAd HeRe

Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic… and the rest!

Hello darkness my old friend

The clocks have officially gone back.. and while I enjoyed the extra hour in bed on Sunday, it can only mean one thing… DARK NIGHTS! Arrgghhh!

The cold doesn’t bother me, I love winter. But the darkness does. It’s like fuel for ‘my old friend’ and my Amygdala is constantly on high alert.

This isn’t unique to me, lots of people are affected by the shortened days. Seasonal Effective Disorder is a valid medical condition.

If you struggle to keep your moods stable in general, then the dark nights are bound to throw a spanner in the works. Personally I get the following symptoms:

  • Very low mood
  • Lack of interest in anything – seriously I just want to stare into space.
  • Lethargic – to the extent that I could easily face plant onto my desk during the day.
  • Increased appetite for carbs and bad foods
  • Irritable
  • Anxious – more so than usual
  • Anti-social – I don’t even want to talk on the phone

I can be lazy when it comes to my own wellbeing, but this afternoon when I had to buy a Red Bull to stay awake *shudders* I knew it was time to act. So what to do? As per usual, sadly it requires effort. *Sigh*

Here are my classic dark nights survial tips:

  • LIGHT – If you really struggle then it’s worth investing in a SAD lamp. I think mine was £30. Light therapy is thought to affect brain chemicals linked to mood. The neighbours will think you’re growing cannabis, but it works. I have mine on when I’m getting ready in the mornings. Be sure to position it within arms distance of your face.
  • Create a cosy home environment – turn one room into a sanctuary. Somewhere warm and relaxing. Close the curtains, have your slippers waiting and light candles for extra light. Keep it tidy too, there’s nothing worse than coming home to a messy house. Sometimes the simple things can be really effective.
  • Smells – I’m a big believer in using scent to improve the mood, (it’s the one hippie thing I buy into)! Lavendar or sandalwood are great comforting scents. I burn lavendar oil and sometimes rub a few drops into my pillow. It’s like a hug.
  • Exercise – BORING I know, who wants to exercise in the cold and dark? But trust me, once you start you’ll see the benefits. My energy levels and mood improve every time I go for a run. (Always check with a doctor first) IT’S SO ANNOYING, why can’t sitting on your arse and eating cake be an effective cure? If you can’t bear going to the gym then a brisk walk on your lunch break will suffice. The fresh air and daylight will also further top up your ‘sunshine’ levels.
  • Eat well – Believe me I know how amazing carbs are, but too much will only make you feel more sluggish. Try and eat fish and dark green vegetables a few times a week. Both are great for energy levels and they support the nervous system too. I also take Omega 3 suppliments to keep my serotonin levels topped up.
  • Be crafty – During the winter months I like to take up a hobby. At the moment I’m very much into knitting again. Last year Rigby received a handmade blanket (the poor thing). Baking is good too, or making cards. You could even make your own wrapping paper and gift tags for Christmas! There is so much to choose from. Have a look here for inspiration. 
  • First Aid Kit – I’m a fan of a personalised first aid kits. Basically fill it with treats and activities that are relevant to you. The only rule is that you can only dvelve into it when you get home from work. It’s a reward for getting through the day! Mine includes: A nice bottle of wine (obvs), endless bags of malteasers, posh bubble bath, Top Trumps, a puzzle book, atleast three novels, a historical documentary boxset, (don’t judge I love them) and nail varnish. Stock up on goodies at the weekend.. it doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to include things that will make you smile.
  • Embrace it – we spend so much time trying to ignore the dark nights, but is it really so bad? On my way home I’ve started looking at the world around me. It’s still the same, the dark hasn’t killed it 🙂 – so maybe I can make room for the dark..

The brain will eventually acclimatise to the dark, so why not support it with a few positive changes? As always if you need to talk to someone, Anxiety UK and Mind have helplines manned with wonderful caring people.

And just in case you need it.. here’s a cute photo of a hedgehog in a mug!


Categories: Anxiety

13 replies

  1. All good tips, Claire – I would not survive winter without my daylight lamp. I have one which mimics a sunrise for 15 or 30 minutes before beeping at the alarm time and it is such a help when the mornings are dark. I also have a simple daylight lamp beside my pc and I have that on in the morning. I’m loving the idea of your first aid kit – I’ll have to put something together for myself 🙂
    Hedgehog love…

  2. I have a first aid kit, and I have a written one for when I haven’t been shopping. It includes print outs of messages people have sent me, a photo album of lovely places I’ve been or things I’ve seen, lists I’ve written and just things to do, read a book, have a bath etc.

  3. It must be something like destiny or telepathy that brings me here everytime. Cause right now I came here cause I’m in such a dark place right now and I broke down crying, basically crawling here for comfort. As always I found it, thank you Claire for (word game unintentional) bringing clarity into this situation and light into this dark place.

    I’m not completely sure where I can get the lamps you’re describing here but I hope I can because the living room is quite dark right now. Do you possibly have blog -or book tips for cleaning out the apartment and keeping it tidy ? I’m trying to bringing order into the remaining chaos after cleaning out Nr 1 this summer,but I’m struggling.

    PS: It gives me so much hope whenever I come here that I don’t get tired of thanking you for it. Also thank you for the hedgehog, that was the first real smile on my face today.

    • Lexi!!! Sorry for the delay, my inbox seems to have spontaniously missed this! 😦 I hope you’re ok?
      This is the lamp I use – http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B000YSDHZ8/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1446539519&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=sad+light+therapy+box&dpPl=1&dpID=31QU2gr-yTL&ref=plSrch sit in front of it for atleast 20 mins a day. I do 10 mins in the morning & 10 mins when I get home from work. In terms of keeping your place tidy.. I’m not the best guru on that! Although I do chuck out stuff that hasn’t been used in 6 months. Fairy lights & candles are good for a comforting vibe. Oh & I always have a podcast or film playing.. Basically try & keep the general mood of your place steady & happy. (Sounds weird i know)!
      Sending you a big hug xx

      • I’d be lying if I said I was okay but I’m okay-ish. I don’t know how or if I’m gonna get out of this but I just refuse to back down.
        There are a few mantras that get me through the day right now:
        There is this quote from Mahatma Ghandi on my kitchen calendar : “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will. ” that and a quote I heard per chance on one of these talent shows :” When the going gets tough the tough get going .” There is :” Faith makes things possible,not easier ” or ” Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” and :” “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” In times of doubt I cling to them like a baby to its blanket and I realize it’s like learning to walk all over again. First crawling, then trying and stick to it and then one day I hope to look that anxiety-tiger into its eyes and realize it has become a kitten because I needn’t fear it anymore.
        Sorry for the long answer to your answer, had to get rid of this! !

        Best wishes, Lexi
        PS:TThank you again for the hedgehog picture, it lead me to a homepage full of cuteness and instantly made me feel better! !

  4. Hi, having struggled through winters recently I need to do something. Do you have a link for the lamp you use? I don’t know much about them, are some better than others.
    Thanks Nigel.

  5. My parents have just bought me a SAD lamp as an early Christmas present – hurrah! I always find November the worst time of the year – it’s an incredible struggle just to get out of bed sometimes! I’ve also had a sunrise lamp for about 6 years and I LOVE it. It doesn’t make me any happier to get out of bed when it’s cold and dark, but it *definitely* makes me less grumpy in the mornings!

  6. Hi Claire
    Where do you go to get treatment for your anxiety – a GP, a psychologist or someone else? I’m becoming aware that I have some sort of a problem, which seems to be a combination of general anxiety, depression and OCD-type tendencies and it’s starting to interfere with my life and work negatively. BUT I’m too scared to see anyone about it .What if the GP just tells me I’m being silly? I’ve been treated like that before for actual physical sicknesses, so I can only imagine how they might be for something with no visible symptoms, like swelling or a fever, to diagnose!
    Any advice would be appreciated!

    • Hi Jessica, firstly well done for recognising that anxiety is interfering with your every day life. I can completely understand that you’re nervous about telling someone, I was too. But you really have nothing to be ashamed of. I can’t guarantee that your GP will be sympathetic BUT anxiety is a valid medical condition & will be taken seriously. You are NOT being silly at all. GPs deal in symptoms – so I wrote a list of physical & emotional that i’d been experiencing & took it with me, to be concise. They should suggest a SSRI medication & put you on the waiting list for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I found a combination of both worked for me. I would also recommend taking Omega 3 & Vitamin B complex supplements, (if you’d rather not take meds).
      I found the Anxiety UK website to be invaluable when I was suffering. It’s full of advice & they have a helpline https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/
      Wish you the best of luck 🙂 The road to recovery isn’t easier, but you’ll do it!

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