By Samantha Pruitt December
So it’s Wintertime and frankly I missed Fall altogether, since the weather patterns shifted early and I was too buried in work to even notice the changing color of the leaves. By Halloween it was cold, dark and heavy. I had a heavy head, heavy heart and heavy body. It’s like a hangover minus the lingering sketchy photos on Facebook. Unfortunately for me I have been down this muddy path before. In fact, this dirty trail even has it’s own trail marker labeled SAD >>> But fortunately for me, I’ve learned how to crawl out of dirt holes and even better, recognize and prepare for this annual mountain expedition. Tell me if you can relate?
“Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms most commonly in the winter. SAD is a type of major depressive disorder, and sufferers may exhibit any of the associated symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, thoughts of suicide, loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from social interaction, sleep and appetite problems, weight gain, difficulty with concentrating and making decisions, decreased libido, a lack of energy, or agitation.”
No this is NOT something we just suck up or get over, its a thing. A real physiological body chemistry imbalance thing. For me this started to become an issue when my Celiacs Autoimmune Disease was in full force and my hormones went postal around age 30. Then, adding insult too injury, my beloved Dad died right before Christmas, taking the idea of the holidays and family season to a bad head space. Several years later, again right before Christmas, my Mother died as well. So again Joy was not on my holiday menu. Then once I finally got off the couch and became an outdoor endurance athlete the seasonal light and temperature drops became another issue of distress. #forreal
Lately there is a lot in the main stream news on depression and in particular I am seeing professional athletes also sharing their battle publicly. I am so glad to see the stigma being removed and felt the calling to share my own truth in hopes to support others. I can only assume that it affects athletic people often because we tend to be ‘doers’ and a Winter time hibernation mindset makes us uncomfortable. We also thrive on Vitamin D (made by your body in the sun) and B (derived from food), two very common deficiencies of athletes that are linked to depression and anxiety. We are so tightly connected to our hormones and energy system fluctuations as well so when we are off our game we tend to notice it more. Whatever the cause…….. it SUCKS! And life is too damn short to waste our Winters in the funkzone.
Since this was not my first hike up SAD Mountain, I spent all November getting myself re-structured with fresh goals plus a sound strategy to deal.
I set up accountability methods and team support then red penned daily time for both working out as well as simply breathing fresh air in the sun to clear my foggy head. Below are my top 10 tips that have helped me A) not only make it out of the dark muddy hole and up the damn mountain but B) allow me to stand onto of the summit and feel like my best self again.
Get your blood work checked each Fall so you know what is really happening inside. Then sit with a Health Coach, reviewing results and build a personalized health plan.
Get out your paper calendar and plan outdoor active adventures. Write that shit down! Plan, log, track and journal.
Do not feel trapped inside by the cold, wet or daylight. Gym time is great for early am & pm workouts but lunch time and weekends get the hell outside people and BREATHE DEEP.
Join a team or club that lives by the value system you believe in. Use these valuable relationships to be held accountable and to fuel your spirit with positive beliefs and FUN ACTIONS. #sweatherapy
Tweak your normal daily schedule with the shift in sunrise and sunset so you MAXIMIZE your daylight exposure. Expose your body daily to some Mother Sun for solar power:)
Go home on time and get into those sexy flannel PJ’s early rather than sugar or coffee load each late afternoon in desperate attempt to trick your body that its really not dark outside!
Avoid the TV and internet drama and toxic news feeds. Focus your brain instead on meaningful words, sounds and images that inspire you (books, podcasts and documentaries).
Call in sick to holiday junk food and booze filled parties. Putting on the extra Winter pounds will only further lead to negative self talk and body image plus make your January CRUSHIT fitness goals that much farther to reach.
Instead of giving and getting holiday things, talk honestly to your loved ones about investing in an experience together (or let them buy you a race entry or workout / team / club membership). People who connect and share adventures together create bonds of a lifetime- not baggage.
Spend time alone reflecting on your year with gratitude. Make a list of all the cool epic shit you did and then a list of all the hard work you accomplished. Then let it all GO and dream BIGGER for the new year.
I see you. I know you. We are of the same tribe. If you feel you need help with these things or are looking for your community of like minded BIG ASS DREAMERS to connect with then let me know. We are all waiting for you.
Samantha (Alderton) Pruitt FB