Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands
Each season brings along new sights, smells and experiences. As fall continues and winter approaches, these changes may cause conflicting feelings to various groups of people. In particular, those in recovery may suffer greatly during these seasonal changes. During the changes of the seasons, it is important to be aware of the potential issues that may present themselves during these months. It is equally important to become educated about new and healthy ways to cope with these potential issues.
Seasonal affective disorder is a medical disorder associated with the changing of the seasons.
As sunlight decreases and the weather gets colder, many people may experience symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a recurrent major depressive disorder with a seasonal pattern usually beginning in fall and continuing into winter months. A subsyndromal type of SAD, or S-SAD, is commonly known as “winter blues.” Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer.”
In terms of recovery, these symptoms may serve as a threat to sobriety. When an individual experiences problematic emotions due to the changing of the seasons, they may suddenly feel distraught because they cannot control their surroundings. If not properly equipped with various coping strategies, hopelessness may set in as a result. In turn, this hopelessness can cause one to question the significance of their sobriety, thus making relapse a very real possibility.
If anxiety or depression is left untreated or unidentified, it can easily cause one to no longer prioritize their well-being. Both depression and anxiety can cause one to involuntarily neglect their physical and mental health due to a lack of focus and energy. A person struggling with depression may experience consistently low energy levels, such that they find difficulty getting out of bed each morning. Someone with anxiety may be unable to relax enough each night to fall asleep at a decent hour. Leaving these conditions untreated can get in the way of one’s ability to continue to commit to their recovery.
If you feel you may have SAD or the “winter blues,” there are things you can do to help you cope with the seasonal changes.
Although these next few months may be challenging for many, there are ways to cope that do not compromise sobriety. While some common ways of coping can include meditating, journaling or even calling a friend, some more unique ways to adapt to these changes can include the following:
You can redecorate your living space.
A great way to renew your energy and find inspiration each day is to reorganize and redecorate your living space. This process can be as in-depth as you like. Perhaps you take a week to envision and plan out how you want your space to look. Next, you might take another week or so to gather the materials necessary to make your vision come to life. Then, you may begin decorating and rearranging your space for a week or so as well. No matter the length, this can be an enjoyable and rejuvenating experience.
Planning movie nights for each evening during the month is a great way to help you cope.
Having something to look forward to each day is important in recovery. A fun activity you can do to ensure you have things to look forward to can include planning a movie night for each night during the month. You get to choose whatever movie you would like to watch. Whether you have a good or bad day at work or school, you know that you have a relaxing activity afterward to look forward to. You can even plan out a fun snack to pair with the movie of choice each night. This activity can be a great way to distance yourself from the depression and anxiety you may be experiencing.
Another tip to help you through seasonal changes is to exchange your coffee for tea.
Drinking tea can be a great alternative to drinking coffee during this time. Not only does tea have countless health benefits, but it also contains much less caffeine compared to coffee. There are countless flavors of both loose leaf and bagged teas. Trying out different flavors and their effects can be a fun activity that can help you feel relaxed and peaceful each day and/or night. Perhaps you schedule a day or two each week to go out and buy a new tea flavor to try out for the week. Having this fun, relaxing hobby as the seasons change can help to restore peace and happiness in your body.
While there are many ways to cope with the negative effects of changing seasons, it is important to remember that reaching out to medical professionals is always an option. Trained professionals can help create lasting methods of coping with these trying times.
As the seasons change, many people in recovery may struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). At Pinelands Recovery Center in Medford, our faculty is trained to give you the care that you need to ensure your sobriety. To learn more about how we can help you manage these seasonal changes, call us today at (877) 557-5372.