Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.” ~Robert Byrne
Despite the start of a fresh New Year, the last two weeks have been a struggle for me as I try to muster up the energy and focus to get through each day.
December 21st is one of my favorite days of the year: Winter Solstice; the day that marks the beginning of lengthening days and shortening nights. That one-minute difference in the time of sunset on December 20th (4:54 PM) and December 21st ( 4:55 PM) gives me hope, knowing that each day will get a little bit longer. Tonight, the sun will set at 5:19 PM – a full 25 minutes more of light than 30 days ago.
I want more and need more, light in order to function. I learned years ago that I suffer from the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression displaying a recurring seasonal pattern. It is typically associated with late autumn and winter and thought to be caused by a lack of light.
I used to scoff at the idea of the “winter blues,” but the behavior patterns prove otherwise: my annual “two-week hibernation,” difficulty sleeping, and lack of energy seem to occur between Christmas and the end of January. Despite the fresh start and burst of energy at the first of the year, it seems to fizzle out during the second week of January. I need more coffee and more time on the couch with a book, “writing, paperwork and housecleaning can wait,” I tell myself.
I bundle up in a warm coat, hat, and scarf to walk the dog, but cannot shake the chill that permeates my bones. This year, we’ve had rain on and off again: a day of hard rain, followed by a day of sunshine and spring-like weather, followed by rain. On those days of sunshine, I would stand on the sidewalk, Cody’s leash in my hand, close my eyes and tilt my head toward the sun, breathing in the clean, fresh air. Like a cat, I allow the sun to regulate my body temperature and soothe my soul.
“Spring is here!” I think, but alas, the next day, the skies are gray, and rain is in the forecast. I don’t like the way Mother Nature toys with my emotions and mental state.
I look around at the unfinished projects and things I want to do at home. Guilt weighs heavily over me: my husband is at work, the kids are at school, and here I am, wondering why I can’t seem to get my act together.
I pull out my blue light therapy lamp, set the timer for 15 minutes and settle into the sofa. Rather than fighting the feelings of guilt and sadness, I choose to sit with these feelings, letting them rise and fall; I know these feelings are temporary and will be replaced with other feelings like hope, joy, and happiness. I tell my coaching clients that sitting with their emotions is a lot like standing in a river, emotions, like water, flow and move along.
After a few minutes of sitting with my eyes closed, I open them, take a few deep breaths. I am grounded and calm. My head feels clear and my attention to detail seems sharper.
When the light shuts off, I get up and go into my office, sit down, and begin to work on a section in my book. The writing comes quickly, effortlessly, and honestly. I feel lighter and happier.
I move the content to a shared file where later my editor gives me feedback about my writing – “beautifully and lyrically written”; “a vivid portrait”; and “really good work.” Reading the comments, I feel better and more accomplished.
Despite the darkness of winter, things do shine; sometimes it’s a struggle to see the bright side but as each day gets a bit longer, it is becoming easier to see the light.