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
- 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!