Illustration by Jaye Elizabeth Johnson.
Our planet continues to ceaselessly revolve around the sun, and autumn is upon us in the Northern hemisphere. Some of the things that come along with this circular motion can be frustrating at times.
People who are mentally ill, like myself, struggle especially with the changes of seasons.
Whether you have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, BPD, or something else, you might have found yourself feeling differently during the various times of year. Typically, mentally ill people have had depressive episodes at some point, and that’s why this article will focus mainly on depression, but also cover other disorders.
For some, the answer to this is that they have seasonal affective disorder, which is when a person experiences depression at the same time every year. The wintertime is generally associated with this disorder, but it also affects people during warmer weather. Treatment is similar to that for major depressive disorder—talk therapy, antidepressants, and other psychiatric medications—but also sometimes includes light therapy. Personally, I can’t relate too deeply because I have MDD, not SAD. To me, though, light therapy sounds like one of the things that some neurotypical psychology professor who thinks mentally ill people are So Weird and Interesting would come up with. But that’s not to say it won’t help you, because it might.
The cycling of the world is endless, and for mentally ill people this can be so troubling. Day after day, your thoughts begin to melt into the wake up, sleep, wake up, sleep. What’s the point of waking up if I’m going back to sleep in 12 hours? wake up, sleep, wake up, wake up, wake up, sleep. My advice is to try to make things interesting. You can’t change the weather, but you can change how it affects you. Try to do something different every day. Spice up your life. Routines can be nice, but you will benefit from a balance of spontaneity and predictability. Another way to cope with your life feeling repetitive is to figure out some goals for yourself, both short-term and long-term. To-do lists are great for that! On a smaller scale, if you are just having a tough week, simple activities with a clear beginning, middle, and end, may help you feel more fulfilled. Know that it is exhausting to be philosophical all the time. Some days, you just gotta do a coloring page. It’ll help give you perspective.
Be sure you’re physically prepared for the weather. Dress wisely; layers are key and scarves can be an easy thing to throw on top of a comfy outfit. Carrying water, light snacks, chapstick, and other essentials also helps to ensure you can go about daily life with relative ease. Do your best to find ways to get up and move your body. Maybe try stretching when you wake up, because it’s not intense exercise, but still energizes you. I stretch in the mornings, and it also gives me something to work towards, because I’m not a very flexible person right now. Straightforward goals make me feel more driven and productive. Additionally, if it’s cold outside, don’t just rush out at the last minute. Give yourself a few minutes to adjust from a heated place to the brittle cold.
Your thoughts are the most significant influence on your mood. Changing them so they are more positive is a difficult and time-consuming task, but it’s necessary for good mental health. Actively challenge your ideas. Know that you are more than the things that happen to you and you are definitely more the weather. Think through why you are having a specific thought, what it entails, and what that means for you in the future. Distinguish intrusive thoughts from genuine ones. Yes, all of these methods are hard. Getting through mental illness is difficult in general. But you’re alive, and you can be electric.
Developing a set of coping strategies that work for you is extremely important. If you have psychotic symptoms, reality check with others whenever possible. Stop & think before acting. Stay safe, my friends.