a trip to the shadow side: struggling with the autumnal blues

It's no secret that, for about nine months out of the year, Seattle-ites have it rough weather-wise. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked in the past, "But why would you live there?! Doesn't it rain, like, all the time?" 

(P.S. My answer to that, whilst complicated, can most effectively be summed up by two words: Seattle. Summers.) 

(P.P.S. While we're above average in days per year with rain, we actually get about 16% less rain than New York and Boston. So there. Pffththt.)

Anywho... Within the last few weeks, autumn has officially come a-calling. The romantic in me wants to focus on the innate cozyness of the season. Warm sweaters. Hot apple cider. Cozy blankets. Cuddles while we binge-watch "Scandal" on Hulu. (FYI, these are all very real parts of my life. Something for which I am unendingly grateful.)

But, truth be told... beyond the romance and flickering lights, there's a chilly, dark, and damp side to the season. 

As the seasons shift, so too does our mood. Whereas we spent the summer gathering that natural, sun-drenched vitamin D and enjoying the sunshiney moods that accompany it, for many of us, the transition into fall brings with it an unwelcome guest: the autumnal blues. 

For me, the blues show up right around the beginning of October. Depressed mood. Trouble sleeping. Mid-day exhaustion. Even menstrual issues (TMI?... Oops.). This year, we were seeing high temps into mid-October, so the blues were delayed a bit, but nonetheless, they've officially come to roost for a bit.

And I know that I'm not the only one. Whether the transition into autumn brings a fleeting touch of the blues, or you're one of the hundreds that wrestle with full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder (FYI, over 10% of all Pacific Northwesterners struggle with SAD), the journey into darker days and colder nights mean a trip to the shadow side for many of us.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm offering up a few of my tried and true tips for fighting the autumnal blues. (Also, in the spirit of... full-er disclosure, if you are currently struggling with depression, getting connected with a trained and supportive professional goes a long way, believe me.)

1. Cultivate care rituals.

One of the absolute best pieces of advice that I've ever received comes from my aunt, a therapist, addiction & eating disorder specialist, and fellow creative spirit: "Remember to do some routine things that you love to offset all the changes and uncertainties." Carving out time and space for the rituals and routines that we know bring us light ensures that we're consciously lighting the flame of our joy on a daily basis. 

For me, that could mean daily timeouts with a good book (currently: The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Gillebeau), sipping on my favorite holiday teas, or crafting a delicious meal at night. What rituals and routines do you love?

2. Get your gratitude on.

You know me, I'm all about gratitude. And while, yes, I could go on and on about it (... and did. Here and here and here) - the simple truth is that it has crazy powerful protective effects and can leverage daily moments of appreciation to world-altering lives of joy. 

In the shadow seasons, it can be hard to remember to get back to gratitude. So create a calendar reminder on your phone, or write it on your daily to-do list. Grab an gratitude-accountability buddy or join a group on Facebook. My (crazy wonderful) clients build gratitude into our work together, highlighting three things daily. Take a minute right now. What are you most grateful for in this moment and why?

3. Supplement what's missing. 

More than just a sparkly benefit from time in the sun, our bodies desperately need Vitamin D. But in winter months, especially for those of us in the northern latitudes, it proves difficult to get our Vitamin D from its most readily-accessible source: sunlight. Without it, you up your risk for a range of disorders, from cancer to fibromyalgia, heart disease to bone loss. Check out these resources for more deets on the VitD!

Sometimes, it's difficult to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D through our nutrition choices, especially for vegans. My supplement of choice is doTERRA's Lifelong Vitality - which packs a healthy dose of Vitamin D along with other essential, anti-inflammatory nutrients and supplements. Do your own research to find a quality multivitamin and Vitamin D supplement to keep the blues (and more) at bay!

4. Eat your happy.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It's pretty freakin' incredible what our bodies are able to do when we feed them what they most desperately need. Eating a diet high in nutrients and low in the processed junk lowers the body's mood-altering inflammation and powers its ability to fight the blues. Whether your body works best on Paleo or vegan, macrobiotic or some mixture of each, here's the nitty gritty for all of them: cut out the sources of inflammation (dairy, gluten, sugar) and up the sources of highest nutrition, like seasonal vegetables and healthy proteins.

Bonus tip: eating in season can have tremendous healing effects. In the fall and winter, our bodies most naturally crave warming foods - combining seasonal veggies, like cruciferous vegetables, squashes, etc., and healthy proteins in soups, stews and roasted dishes can also be warming for the soul.

5. gtfo.

Get out. For many of us, the blues can be imprisoning. Escape the shackles and leave the nest. Go grab a yoga-sesh or meet a friend for coffee. Changing our environment creates neurological shifts in the brain. Play around with this. And, while you're at it, go get your fill of those other depression-fighting powerhouses: movement and community.

For many of us, while the desire to get out of our shadow-filled lair sounds appealing, when it comes time to leave, we're met with internal resistance. Having plans, an accountability partner or another outside motivator can be the ticket that you need to get out. Make a plan, put it on your calendar and ask friend to make sure that you make it. 

While this list is most certainly not all-inclusive, these are a just a few of my favorites. 

Now it's your turn. What are your favorite tips for those brushes with the blues? Join the Wellness by Kate community and share below - I love learning from you!

Kate McCarthyComment