October 11, 2022
Tips for Managing the “Autumn Blues”
I don’t know about anyone else, but I get sad this time of year. The fall blues are something I’ve experienced since I was a pre-teen. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, was a common diagnosis given to me back then. The mayo clinic defines SAD as “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and resolves during the fall or winter months.” That wording fits me like a glove. As a person in recovery, I need to be extra careful not to feed into these emotions too deeply in fear of a relapse. Here are some tips I’ve received over the years that help maintain my balance this time of year.
1) You won’t get arrested for eating too much
Our bodies feel the weather getting colder. And like a bear preparing for hibernation, many of us respond to this weather change with a desire to eat more. Although it is important we don’t become chronically unhealthy, eating more this time of year is ok to fend off cravings for other substances. Remember, you won’t get arrested for eating too much. Food is a substance we can afford to overindulge in from time to time. If you find yourself struggling and wanting to eat an extra serving of dessert, do it. It’s better than struggling your way to a relapse.
2) Give yourself time to go slow
My body and brain tend to slow down this time of year as if the cold is stiffening my joints and my thoughts. It’s best not to fight against this but to accept it and plan for it. I like to give myself an extra half hour or even an extra hour to complete physical or mental tasks. There is nothing wrong with moving slowly. To avoid the stress of being late or letting to-do lists pile up, permit yourself to move at the pace that makes you feel comfortable, just as long as you keep moving. I know for me if I can’t do something perfectly or efficiently, I tend to avoid doing it together. Instead of attacking projects as quickly as we can to “get it over with,” approach our projects with extra time so we can move at the pace of a cold day.
3) Get Outside
I get stuck in my head a lot in the fall. I ruminate. My world becomes small, and I get stuck inside self-centered thinking. When my world is small, my thoughts are small. It makes it worse when all I see are the four walls of my apartment. By getting outside, I’m reminded that there is more to life than what’s happening inside my head or my apartment. The world is big and beautiful, and life is happening around us. This always helps me get into a better mood.
4) Feelings are not facts
Feelings are a gift of sobriety. Numbing is no longer a response to my feelings. There is a sacrifice to living that way; sometimes, feelings are complicated and confusing. But the important thing for me to remember is that my feelings are not facts. They will pass; they aren’t always there to “tell me something,” and I don’t always need to “figure them out.” By taking my feelings off of a peddle stool and putting them in their appropriate place of importance, they don’t need to dominate my experience.
5) PICK UP THE PHONE
Ultimately, the best medicine for feeling blue is talking to someone. Having a network of people and friends with whom we relate and feel heard is essential to fighting the feeling of isolation. Addiction is a disease of isolation. The phone can weigh ten thousand pounds sometimes, but we still need to pick it up and make our calls for no other reason than to say hello to someone. If you don’t want to talk, ask questions about that person’s day instead. Recovery is about becoming whole again- with yourself, a higher power, and your community.
Article written by : Colin Capaci