We’re officially within the bounds of “holiday season” by now. We survived the time change (how did that go for your little ones, by the way?). It’s getting darker way sooner than it was just weeks ago. And fall is transitioning into winter.
This time of year, the sun sets so early in the day and even when it’s out, you might not always see too much of it. Skies turn grey or overcast many days out of the season. Northern California, where I live, definitely tends to get more precipitation this time of year than it does the rest of the year. And many places across the country get much more rain (or snow!) than we do.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is what some people call the “winter blues”, but that really undermines what it is. SAD can hit during any season, but is most common during the fall and winter months and affects mood and energy levels. Depression, oversleeping, appetite changes, weight gain, feeling sluggish, and difficulty concentrating are common symptoms.
Also, recent research is showing that moms who deliver their babies in the summer and fall tend to have higher rates of postpartum depression. We can only speculate about why that is, but personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it is because it’s so easy to feel stuck at home after baby is born, while everyone else is out enjoying the weather and living their lives. There also may be a correlation between postpartum depression and seasonal affective disorder, since soon after a summer or fall baby is born, the days grow shorter and cooler.
So, just imagine feeling that stir-crazy, home-bound, stuck, lonely and bored feeling PLUS a side of Seasonal Affective Disorder added in. Doesn’t exactly sound like a good time, does it?
But the good news is there are things you can do to combat it all.
And it really takes equal parts health and self-care, a positive attitude (which takes practice!), and will power to try things outside of your comfort zone.
Take Care of Yourself
Seasonal changes can disrupt our circadian rhythms. The lack of sunlight also directly affects the levels of serotonin in the brain. Light therapy is a great option to mimic the effects of sunlight in our brains, but can be a bit of an investment when buying one.
Pregnancy has a way of really draining a woman’s body of her magnesium resources and some studies show that moms’ bodies need up to two years to fully recover from pregnancy and birth. Magnesium deficiencies can cause depression and is thought by some to be a factor in postpartum depression. So, replenishing your magnesium supply can make a huge difference. The interesting thing about magnesium, however, is that it’s more easily absorbed through the skin, rather than an oral supplement. So, look for magnesium oil at drug or health food stores, which you can use as a massage oil or moisturizer on the skin. Or, my favorite way to get extra magnesium: Epsom salts. Add them to your bath or, if you aren’t a bath taker, you can do a foot soak with a large bucket and get the same benefits.
The further away from the equator you live, the less sunlight you’ll see in the winter time. One reason this is a bummer is that our bodies make all the vitamin D we need when we are out in the sun. So, during those darker months, you could possibly become vitamin D deficient. A simple blood test at your doctor’s office can check this for you, and you can get a supplement by prescription or over-the-counter. Making sure you get enough vitamin D will help stave off illness and also boost energy levels.
Never underestimate the power of aromatherapy. There’s a lot of good evidence out there showing that essential oils are a quick and easy way to affect mood. This is because our sense of smell is our most direct connection to the limbic system (our mood center in the brain). I always like to teach different aromatherapy tricks in my workshops to help busy moms find their calm and boost their mood. If you need a basic place to start, try a citrus oil to uplift your mood or lavender to calm and destress. I wrote a whole blog post on essential oils a while back that has some more ideas for how to use essential oils to boost mood.
Bring the Outside In
Any sort of object from nature can be a great, calming addition inside the home. Things like stones, branches, cut flowers, or live potted house plants can invite more calm, peace and happiness indoors. If you have a fireplace, build a fire. Or light a candle. All of these things can make us feel connected to the natural world, even when the weather isn’t cooperating.
Another trick you can do to your interior is use artwork or mirrors to add new life. Particularly, paintings or photos of nature can have a positive therapeutic effect. Hanging a new landscape painting can almost be like adding a new window to your home. And mirrors are great because their reflective quality bounces light back into the space while also giving the illusion that a room is more spacious than it is. It might sound silly, but these things do help us to feel less boxed in.
If you can’t get out of the house, invite friends over to your place. There’s no need to stress over being the perfect host (unless if it brings you joy to create a certain atmosphere when entertaining). All you really need is some good friends and some laughs. Adding new personalities into your home can definitely liven things up and help you to feel connected to the world outside your door.
Get Comfortable with Getting Out of the House
Practice making the habit and pushing your limits to get more comfortable being out and about. I know a lot of moms can struggle with getting around confidently when they have a baby or toddler in tow. It’s normal and you’re not less of a mom if you struggle with this yourself. The best thing you can do though is to practice. It does get easier. We worry about being judged sometimes, but I think you’ll find that most people--especially if they are a mom--have a lot of empathy for how hard it can be.
When the weather is miserable, find places that are baby and kid friendly to roam around. Cabin fever is real--I get it. Believe me, when my son was small, sometimes the only thing I could do was spend a few hours wandering the aisles at Target. Dangerous for my wallet, but crucial for my sanity! Places like shopping malls or museums can be great places to stroll around. Do some google searches to see if your city has coffee shops with play areas in them or indoor botanical gardens or indoor playgrounds. Or maybe your gym membership has a childcare facility in it? All the more reason to keep up with your exercise goals!
Embrace the Season You’re In
This is where I tell you that sometimes we just have to grin and bear it. Even if the weather isn’t ideal, a daily habit to take a walk outside will make a huge impact on your mood. And who knows, you might even acclimate to the weather?
Even better: Let your kids explore and find joy in the weather as it is. Babies and kids are so adaptable. I think we stress too much sometimes about whether they’ll catch a cold when it’s too wet or chilly outside, but really, the fresh air is so good for them and the new experiences is so important for their sense of wonder (and, really, for ours too!). And the best part? Coming inside for a hot chocolate or a hot bubble bath. These are the things memories are made of!
Well, what do you think? Do you dread the darker, cooler months? What will you be trying this season to keep your spirits up?