Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder requires acknowledgement, comfort, and seeking more Joy.
Thanks for taking time to read. I'm so happy you are here. Note: As you read my personal share, trust that I'm experienced with managing my symptoms and have good resources, so I don't need suggestions or solutions. I just need to give it some voice and air it out a little. And mostly, I hope that sharing my experience normalizes someone else's struggles.
It's mid January, I'm 'not exactly rocking it'.
I've been struggling most mornings, waking up in (what we nervous system nerds) call a 'freeze' or 'shut down' state. I awake feeling anxious, stuck, breathing shallow, and a sense of unrational dread about my day ahead. Motivation and capacity is low. Procrastination and isolation are showing up to take the pressure off, but make things worse. And like usual, there's that awful feeling....Shame. Not wanting anyone to know.
Depression feels like a cozy, familiar shawl at first that sneakily starts to tighten its grip around me, causing me to shrink inwards, stealing my breath and sense of worthiness.
Seasonal Affective Disorder is pretty common up here in the Northern climate.
Ever since I was a teenageer, I've tended towards depressive symptoms in the winter. Some years I manage it like a champ - using my daylight consistently, taking good supplements and getting the right amount of fresh air and movement. But it's just not my reality these past few weeks. On top of the lack of light, I'm also recovering from burn out from 20 months of 'Covid business pivoting', fierce social activism, and a recent rural home restoration that felt like a 3-month dash. I regret none of it. I'm damn proud of it. And I'm tired.
The hardest thing about depression for me still, is managing the shame.
It took me a good decade of personal work to come to terms with depression as an aspect of my physiology. To love and appreciate this part of me, just as I love and appreciate my shiny, fun parts. And even though I know this part of me has its purpose (and a much smaller influence over my operating system most of the time), there is still some shame that arises if I feel this way for too long.
And as a wellness practitioner, it sucks to admit that I struggle with this sometimes. That I don't have it 'all together'.
The narrative in my head sounds goes something like this, "If only I was more consistent with xyz, I wouldn't end up in this state.", "If people find out I struggle with depression, they won't want to hire me, take my classes, they'll think I'm a fraud." Blah Blah Blah.
My intention this winter feels ironic and yet so perfect: 'Find More Joy, Joy'.
I'm practicing finding the simple things that bring me more happiness throughout my day.
The warmth of my coffee cup,
The luxurious warmth of my hot tub while breathing in the icy fresh air.
The pine scent of my Christmas candle multiplied by the the appreciation of my daughter's thoughtfulness in giving it to me.
My cat's hearty purr and unconditional, soft affection.
The comraderie at workouts as we skip some burpees
The magical feel as the talking piece goes around at the women's circle I co-host.
And when I'm really present with these moments, if I remember to really savor and enjoy, I can feel that shift inside. My breath expands, my shoulders soften, and my eyes smile. I shift from Shame to Joy.
Despite some cruddy symptoms right now, I'm also celebrating how far I've come.
15 years ago (when I was juggling mothering young children and a corporate career), I didn't know about Seasonal Affective Disorder or how to manage it. I was near suicidal a few times, secretly despising myself for being so depressed, my young children the reason for sticking it out. Even as I learned to manage symptoms better throughout the years (follow my social media pages for seasonal tips that help me out so much), it's still always tempting to just hide it.
So I remind myself 'The only way out is through' and that my growing super power is acknowledging and offering comfort to myself.
Beyond the habits, wellness appointments (and let's be honest, a great hair cut), the most important resource I have is acknowledging what's up for me (and especially the shame when it's there) and offer myself compassion, comfort and love. A simple hand on my heart, some kind words, a light squeeze or rub of my arm, a rock or sway to soothe. I've gotten better at being my own cheer-leader instead of my worst critic.
I invite you to check in with yourself.
In reading this share, what is arising for you? What are you struggling with that you can simply acknowledge and give some space to? What are you celebrating in your own awareness and growth around it? How can you love on yourself just a little bit more? And how might you find some more of that Joy?
Joy Onyschak has been helping people shift from overwhelm to ease and release stored tension patterns from their bodies for over 13 years. As a somatic coach, she incorporates Numa Breathwork, somatic movement and the art of Holding Space to help her clients find the wholeness they seek.
She resides in Winnipeg, Canada with her husband, two teens, and cat, Hobbes. You can find her work at www.joysomatics.ca , and connect with her through Instagram , Facebook or email email@example.com Book a session with Joy.