such_heights: a hand cupping a candle (stock: candle)
Autumn has arrived rather firmly here in London, and with it the wave of sad and tired I've come to associate with SAD. This is unusually early for me, so I've been on the back foot, scrambling to get my light box set up and GP appointments scheduled in. But I'm doing okay. Fistbump to everyone else dealing with this at the moment, whether you're in the northern hemisphere with the winter version, or the southern hemisphere and the summer version. (I feel it's maybe not a widely-known fact that some people have SAD that hits in spring/summer? But that is indeed a thing.)

It's an odd thing, a mood disorder that comes with relatively reliable time parameters. Knowing that I'll definitely feel better come spring if not before is reassuring in some ways, but given it's only just autumn now, that's a bloody long time away, and the path between now and then is both treacherous and tedious, to borrow a phrase from Elementary.

In the meantime, one foot in front of the other. I try and take advantage of the good days to shore up progress in the things I want to get done, so it's less dispiriting on bad days and I have more space to breath and just take care of myself.

Something I always find difficult is learning when to push myself and when not to. The idea of leaving the house frequently becomes the worst idea in the world, but often when I manage to do it I feel better afterwards. Other times, it's too much, I call off whatever I was going to do. They're both acts of self-care, but it's always hard to tell which one I need on a given occasion.

Mostly I try and remember that this is a real illness, and that it's understandable for it to have an effect on my capacity to do things. I'm doing my best, and eventually, spring will come around again.

While writing this, I couldn't really think of any specific advice that I had to offer to people other than 'hang in there', but if anyone's got advice on this subject they'd like to share in the comments, I'd be interested to hear it!

Really though, hang in there. ♥
such_heights: amy surrounded by sunflowers (who: amy [sunflowers])
The nights are drawing in, I've dug out coats and gloves and put the heating on, and I think I spent more of the weekend asleep than awake. It is once again autumn, and time to batten down the hatches against this year's round of seasonal depression.

Which is annoying, because I'm pretty happy right now and would like to stay that way! In order to maintain that as much as I can, here's my to do list.

None of the below is remotely prescriptive - what works for me could be ineffective or even disastrous for someone else. And sometimes great plans come to nothing and all you really want to do is hibernate and wait for spring to come around again, and that's okay too.

Sometimes it's better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness, says Terry Pratchett. My flamethrower looks something like this.

+ Light box. I have a big one at home that I need to start using already, even though that means getting up earlier in the mornings, horror of horrors. I am also looking into finding some room in the budget to get a portable desklamp style light box for work so I can use it for longer. I will also do my best to go outside for a bit on every day that the weather's passable.

+ Keeping an eye on my mood. I'm usually pretty in touch with how I'm feeling, but it's only when I sat down to write this that I realised that oh, yes, the sleeping all weekend thing was a bit of a giveaway that it's started. I've started up an account over at MoodScope, which charts your mood every day by giving you a series of emotions like 'proud', 'jittery', 'inspired', 'upset' etc and asking you to say how much you feel of each.

+ Keeping mentally busy. I'm stocking up on creative projects at the moment - fests, exchanges, initial plotting for my third attempt at NaNo next month - to give me happy-making and engaging things to think about when it's tempting to just sit and stare into space somewhere.

+ Support system. My GP, my flatmates, my friends, my family - there are a lot of people I can call on should I need help. I'm very lucky that way. The trick is, when I do need help it's hard to remember that it's okay to ask. (Curse you, brain weasels!)

It'll be fine.

If anyone would like to share their own strategies and what works for them in tackling SAD/related issues, please do. And to everyone else in the northern hemisphere who's ramping up for this, good luck. <3
such_heights: a hand cupping a candle (stock: candle)
So a couple of people on my rlist have been posting resources to do with meditation, mindfulness and practicing kindness and compassion lately. Given there seems to be some interest, and this is also something I'm working on at the moment, I thought I would share some resources that my psychologist has given me on the subject.

In my sessions with her at the moment we're essentially working on developing a kind of anti-depression toolkit based on ideas of mindfulness and extending compassion to oneself. Those ideas stem from Buddhist tradition and are being increasingly used by Western health care professionals to help patients tackle a range of issues and conditions. In my case I'm particularly focusing working to minimise self-criticism and low self-esteem, but it can be useful for a number of different situations as well as having potential benefits just in general. Kindness is good!

One of the things that I've been trying to learn recently about self-criticism, beating yourself up, whatever you want to call it, is that it's not very helpful. As well as being bad for my mental health and general wellbeing, it just isn't very conducive to me actually doing whatever it is I'm chastising myself for not doing. So I'm trying to internalise the kinds of things that I'd imagine a supportive friend or a good teacher saying instead, but it's hard.

Anyway. If you're interested in any of this for any reason, you can download the booklet I've been working from here - mediafire link to .pdf - and this is the main website, Compassionate Mind, though I confess it's basically horrible to navigate so I don't know if there's content there of any interest.

Further reading:

[personal profile] happydork has a list of eight mindfulness exercises.

[livejournal.com profile] sheafrotherdon has detailed book recommendations on the subject.

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such_heights: amy and rory looking at a pile of post (Default)
Amy

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