Magic, Mystery, a little Whisky, and a Cat
Easter Renewal: SAD and How to Beat It Flowery tree against a spring sky.

Ostara (or Easter) Renewal: SAD and How to Beat It

Suddenly, it’s time to get the garden ready, to get ahead of the yard work, to clear the cobwebs and dust out of the house.

For me, this is the time of year when the winter blahs have the strongest hold. I’m at the end of my reserves. The sun is still weak, and the nights are still dark. Summer still feels miles away.

They call it Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some years ago, the medical community accepted it as a real thing—and yes, Virginia, SAD is a real thing. According to the American Heart Association, from 1.4% to 9.7% of North Americans get SAD, and according to American Family Physician up to 10% to 20% may have mild SAD. To make matters worse, SAD can hang around for months—up to 40% of the year, as a matter of fact. That’s a long time to be depressed.

SAD is a mild depression—a feeling of being unwell, unloved, unworthy—just enough to skew your outlook on life. I get tired, cranky–some might even say bitchy. making decisions is impossible. I hate people and everything about them. Things I usually love to do seem lifeless and, well, sad. All I want to do is curl up in bed with a book about violent murder—preferably one where the bad guy gets away with it.

Knowing what it is helps, but then what? Let me tell you what works for me.

Worship the Sun to Beat SAD

Doctors agree that lack of sunlight is a significant contributor to SAD. The National Institute of Health (NIH) has been studying SAD for decades. SAD tends to affect more people in the northern part of the Northern hemisphere (or the southern part of the southern hemisphere.) For example, only about 1% of Floridians suffer from SAD, while over 10% in Alaska.

The return of the sun—and yes, the return of daylight savings time—means we can take advantage of those extended hours of sunlight and recharge our batteries. I find that it takes a few weeks of exposure to bright days to brighten my mood. And if the clouds gather, the dumps return quickly.

If the days are dreary, you can try light therapy. It’s as easy as grabbing a full spectrum lamp that gives you at least 10k lux. Naturally, it would be best to double-check with your doctor to ensure you are good to go with this. The thing to remember is that you need to continue the practice until spring has sprung—well after the equinox. I try to sit in the light at my computer in the morning with my tea and oatmeal as I go over email or contemplate the day. Even 15 minutes while you drink a cup of coffee will help.

Good news!!

Next week, Tue, Mar 19, 2024, at 10:06 PM, the Earth will be perfectly balanced between winter and Summer. Two times yearly, the earth’s axis declines neither away from nor toward the sun. On these two days, the sun appears to be directly above the equator, and the hours of daylight and darkness are (nearly) equal. Because of our wonky calendar, the actual date of the equinox varies from year to year, with the vernal (spring) equinox falling between March 19 to March 22.

After the equinox, days lengthen. More sunshine and better weather put SAD on the run.

Ancient people marked the spring equinox as a time of renewal and rebirth. I won’t even get into how the feast day for Eostre, a pagan goddess, was on the first full moon following the equinox and how, even these days, Easter is calculated as the first Sunday following the first full moon following the equinox. No. I won’t go there.

Self-Medicate—No, Not that way!

Caffeine. Obviously. Wine, in moderation. Booze is a depressant, so proceed with caution.

But there’s nothing like cold, clear water to clean out the pipes. Staying hydrated keeps your liver happy, your kidneys pink, and your spirits pure-ish. It also purges any toxins you may be ingesting, either on purpose or by accident.

Vitamin D and maybe B12 can also give you a boost. Check with the doc. While you can get these over the counter, you might not want to take supplements if you have certain medical conditions. To be clear, I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on TV. I can only tell you what works for me. I find Vitamin D and B12 beneficial, and a little kelp for the iodine.

If things look really dark, your doctor might prescribe an anti-depressant to get you through. Some antidepressants, such as bupropion, have been approved for treating SAD.

Get Social

Even if you don’t think you will be good company, get out there and have a conversation with someone—in person. Anywhere, anyhow. At the grocery store. At a yard sale. Even over the phone. But Social Media does not count.

Strangers are okay, as are old friends you haven’t seen for a while and family, if you like them.

I’ve reached the point where I don’t really care what anyone thinks so I just jabber about anything and everything, make stupid jokes. If it makes me happy, I say it with only moderate filtering. If anyone laughs, they can join my tribe.

Feed Your Body; Starve SAD

Eat healthy food. Not junk food, no matter how much you want to pig out on pasta. High protein, complex carbohydrates. Salads with a light dressing. Quinoa. Couscous if you must. Whole grains and fruits of many colors. Not too much saturated fat. A bit of dark chocolate. This is Aunty Sorchia’s recipe for a happy tummy.

Feed Your Soul

You can seek guidance from a therapist, foster a meditation practice, focus on positive affirmations daily, or work to rephrase negative thoughts into something positive and, let’s face it, more accurate. Things are seldom as bad as they seem in winter.

Yoga is a way to get your body moving and practice mindfulness at the same time.

As the Zen saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes daily. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”

Short story: I once had a long commute to work—over an hour one way. So that was two hours when I was not doing anything but driving. There were no phone conversations because there was little to no coverage in the area. No one asked me for anything. I wasn’t taking care of someone. I wasn’t performing a task. And the world kept rotating without my constant input for over two hours each and every workday.

Miraculous.

When that job ended, I decided to use those 2 hours for good instead of evil–mostly. I meditated, did yoga, exercised. Every now and then, I have to reclaim that time because people and my own weaknesses encroach on it, but if I stay true to the idea that the world doesn’t need me for a couple of hours a day, I find that when I do rejoin the world, I’m much happier and so much more useful. This feeling that you can’t stop, even for a minute, is really a kind of narcissism—the sense that everything depends on you—which it does not. Let that go.

Exercise the SAD out

Walk or start an exercise routine. Get your body moving and stir up the sludge in your veins. Set a timer for 5 minutes and see if you don’t wind up doing 10, 15, or more—daily!

Try Something New

Bah, you say. I can hear you say it. Or is that me? So paint a picture, listen to modern music instead of golden oldies, be bold and start a blog, sign up for (and go to) a class, take a trip—even a day trip—and give yourself something to look forward to.

Do What you Love.

For me, it’s getting outside—hugging a tree, planting a flower, all the hippy stuff. Nature heals. So, revive a hobby you may have let slide. Make time for it every day—even just a few minutes. Plant seeds and watch them grow.

Clear Clutter

Clean the house and take a minute to purge all those negative thoughts while you are at it. Do you remember who you were when you were about ten? Well, that little kid is still in there, and she/he is listening. An old saying attributed to Henry Ford goes, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”

Start and finish the day with positive affirmations: This will be a great day. I’m going to get so much done today. I made the right choices today. I made a difference to someone today.

Think about the Past

Give yourself some credit! You’ve had victories. You’ve overcome challenges. Even if no one else knows, you know. Sometimes, just getting out of bed and pasting on a smile is a Herculean task. Recognize how awesome you are and reward yourself for all those hurdles you’ve cleared. Who else is going to give you compliments—Batman? Don’t wait for that, do it yourself.

Set Intentions

Spring is all about beginnings, fresh starts, and rebirth. Use the energy to put something in motion. Write down an achievable and measurable goal—I will write at least 500 words daily. I will walk for 15 minutes every day. I will not strangle anyone during the summer. Make a checklist if that helps.

Wrote 500 words ✅

Walked for 15 minutes ✅

Didn’t strangle anyone today ✅.

Cultivate Gratitude

If you are reading this, then you have a computer and an Internet connection. You’re probably sitting in a house or apartment with a functioning toilet nearby. An abundant supply of drinking water and a fridge full of food sit mere steps away. You have had enough education to read. Most of your limbs work and you have most of your mental faculties.

In addition, if you and your loved ones are in good health and you can say you are reasonably secure in finances, then you have a great deal to be grateful for. Take a minute to rest in that place.

Today, you are fine.

All of those things have helped me through some dark days. I hope they do the same for you.

As I looked back over the blog, I find I’ve written about SAD before. Here’s a blast from the past: Seasonal Depression in Sorchia’s Universe. It’s a little dark so I think I’ve made progress in the past few years.

And for even more help getting glad instead of SAD—here are some really bad jokes.

  1. Why did the Easter egg hide? Because it was a little chicken!
  2. What do you get if you cross a bunny with a shellfish? An Easter lobster! (This one makes no sense and that’s why it’s funny.)
  3. Why did the Easter bunny join the gym? To get egg-stra fit!
  4. What do you call a mischievous egg? A practical yolk-er!
  5. Why did the Easter egg go to therapy? It needed to come out of its shell!
  6. What do you call a rabbit who tells jokes? A funny bunny!
  7. How do gardeners react to spring? They get so excited that they wet their plants.
  8. How does the Easter bunny stay in shape? Egg-cercise!
  9. How did the trees feel in the spring? Releaved!
  10. Don’t stop be-leafing

    Sources

    Shedding Light on Seasonal Sadness. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2013/01/beat-winter-blues

    10 tips to beat the winter blues (plus the difference between SAD and reoccurring low mood). https://health.unl.edu/10-tips-beat-winter-blues-plus-difference-between-sad-and-reoccurring-low-mood

    Seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

    Seasonal Affective Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder

    What do you Think? Leave a Comment!

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    2 thoughts on “Ostara (or Easter) Renewal: SAD and How to Beat It”