The winter blues. When the season cools and the daylight lessens, sometimes we find that we don’t have our usual energy, agitated and depressed. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that is set off by seasons. It typically appears in the fall and winter and goes away in the spring or summer. Diagnosis may take up to 2 years to see a pattern. So how can you remedy or at least get through the seasons?
Therapies for Seasonal Affective Disorder
There are some therapies that have been effective in treating SAD. I will mention just a few here.
This therapy has been used for a few decades. It involves sitting in front of a light box, which filter out the ultraviolet rays and require 20-60 minutes of exposure to 10,000 lux of cool-white fluorescent light. This level of energy emulates a bright sunny day. Who doesn’t feel good on a sunny day. Treatment is once a day for 20-60 minutes in the morning until spring comes around. Price can start at $25 to $600. This is a great therapy that is easily accessible.
Finding a professional therapist to talk through the season to help you build an actionable plan to help cope with the season. Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy has been adapted for use with SAD (CBT-SAD). CBT-SAD relies on basic techniques of CBT such as identifying negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive thoughts along with a technique called behavioral activation. You can find what activities best engage you and give you pleasure. Working with a therapist proficient in understanding SAD you may find that you need medication and they can help you find the best option for you such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), bupropion, another type of antidepressant, for treating SAD.
There are mixed reviews on vitamin D being useful for treating SAD. I for one find it effective, but perhaps in combination with these therapies above you can get good results. It never hurts to up your vitamin D whether in supplement form or upping you intake in vitamin D rich foods, and or getting plenty of outdoor time (yes even in winter) for some sunshine and exercise.
I think you knew this was coming. Massage has a rich evidence in helping alleviate depressive symptoms. How it works? It decreases the cortisol in the body that cause stress. It increases a person’s ability to get some good sleep which further reduces stress and anxiety. It has been shown in studies to be effective in alleviating Seasonal Affective disorder.
Find Your Joy Again
So now you have a battle plan. Eat well, exercise, have a person to talk to, get sunshine real or the electrical kind, take the medicine if you need it, and get regular massages through out the season. Do the things that bring you joy. Experiment in what activities you find refresh and de stress you and keep on doing it.
You look in the mirror and see a new person. Welcome mother. Welcome to motherhood. Do you recognize her? Can you believe how much a little person has changed life? What now?
Enjoy the ever changing and evolving life of motherhood. It can feel like standing at a precipice. Whether you have waited a long time to get here or happened upon this path of mothering, you may feel overwhelm at the responsibility and uncertainty before you. Who am I now? How can I remain me and embrace this new sense of self?
Massage is a beautiful way to increase self awareness. As your body is massaged, you become aware of how each part of the body feels. Done regularly, massage can help you get to know your body well. This is so important because our body talks to us. It tells us the real story of what is going on in our lives. Tension in the shoulders, is it anxiety, am I slouching because of feeling sadness, am I aware of my posture when nursing my baby? Making a plan for massage as a part of your life is worth it. It has been found in research to decrease anxiety and depression in new mothers. Done regularly during the immediate postpartum phase and into that first year of postpartum can make a world of difference to a mother. It is not just six weeks to recovery. Postpartum affects our bodies and minds for years to come. Physically, the body is jumbled up so to speak from our growing baby being inside and postpartum abdominal massage can help to reorganize things. You have just run a marathon of birth and need to address areas of tension that have built up during labor. You carried a growing baby for 9 months and you will have postural changes. If you have had a Cesarean birth, this still applies to you momma. You will have scar tissue to be addressed and you need no less self-care than a woman who gave vaginal birth. With a plan of massage mother to baby interaction is more positive and helps baby grow well, have better social interactions, and just generally happier. Self-massage routine can be taught to mom so that in between her massage appointments she can still reap benefits. Plus she will know her body well, having a better awareness, and positive body view.
Committing to Yourself
Planning for postpartum massage should be a necessity for new moms. It is a normal part of cultures worldwide. Mothers are given massage daily in some cultures as well as baby. It is not stressed enough to take care of mother in our culture. This conversation needs to be heard more. That is my goal. The better cared for the mother is the better cared for the baby. We really all benefit when mom’s are cared for. Make it your commitment to be well, be cared for and thrive in your 4th trimester. Mom’s make the world go round!
I love my children! I loved my births and the birthing. Each was different and beautiful in it’s own way. My second birth was a beautiful home birth with a midwife who made me feel supported. However, after the birth, I felt different. At first I just thought I’m tired. Yet the feeling persisted. I looked down at my new baby and felt, nothingness. I cared for her and fed her. I found my joy was muted. Like the picture above felt like I was under water and heard sounds but they were muted and unclear. I feared what feelings welled up when she screamed relentlessly night after night. I had to sleep in a chair with her in my arms. I could not put her down. She would not be satisfied. I felt like I was running out of air. I could see the surface above but could not quite reach it. Just helplessly watching the bubbles of my decreasing oxygen escape. I cried, I was angry, I was back to work 3 weeks earlier than I wanted to be. Mind you I worked from home which would seem like a God send, but no. I was here with my attention constantly drawn from work to my screaming little person. I had also a 2 year old who was waiting in the wings. I was, drowning. My husband did not understand what was wrong. Women had done this years before me (to be fair to my husband this is not an uncommon thought). I sank a bit more. People came, cuddled, and went. I sank deeper into the depths. My mind raced about options out. This was not how it is supposed to be. I followed up with my midwife and lied. I said I was fine. Everything was wonderful. I could not bring myself to say I was so incredibly sad.
I happened to have a follow-up with my primary doctor. He went through basic questions. I was tired and that was why I was there. He gave me a list of questions to tick off. I stared at it and tears welled up. I can’t remember the exact questions today, but they were in effect, are you sad, are you depressed, do you feel suicidal? I was scared but tired of being under water and took a chance. I answered honestly. He went over the questions with me and said, I would like you to see a therapist. A what now?
Now I was not okay with this idea, but thought, what the heck. I called a couple therapists met with both and stuck with the one that had more experience in postpartum depression. She was a breath of fresh air. I talked. I said what was on my mind without fear of judgment and I was given homework. Things to work on? Say no more! I have a baby to care for others can wait! I felt freer to acknowledge my feelings. I felt okay saying no and letting people work out there own feelings on how they feel when being told no. I could focus on myself and not be selfish. I started exercising regularly getting outside to walk in fresh air (I love being outdoors). I ate better. I took a shower daily. I got better. I am grateful for that doctors perceptiveness. I know my story is not always the norm when a mom tells her true story postpartum. Armed with this knowledge and experience, I knew what to look out for the next pregnancy and was able to be proactive. I had more support. My hubby made sure I had healthy snacks on hand. I said no when I needed and yes when I wanted. I took off the time from work. I rested and when I could started getting outdoors. I had a doula for my birth. I practiced self massage. I had planned out a better postpartum experience through support, forethought, self-care plan and being honest with myself and others. My feelings are my feelings and I acknowledge them, honor them, and will not be shamed by them. I will ask for help before the calamity arises and if it arises.
This was my experience. This is the catalyst for my work. I love postpartum moms so much. I have walked in the same path and want to support you so that you do not find yourself lost in the depths of dark waters. I want to be there to guide you to the resources you need to get help. I want to provide nourishing touch through massage therapy that is so missing in our culture here in the States. I want to prepare a meal for you so that you have the energy to heal. I want to teach you self-care not because you have no one else to do it, but because you love yourself and want to care for you. If this resonated with you in any way please feel free to leave your experience in the comments for others. The more women who tell their story, the more chance another mom struggling will feel less inhibited to tell her true story and get support.
Much love to you momma! You can and will thrive and I am willing and ready to support you!