Open Thinkering


Battening down the hatches (again)

Storm clouds

Towards the end of last September I wrote a post entitled Battening down the hatches. In it, I explained how I dread the coming of this time of year:

[As] the days get shorter so does my temper…. my productivity and motivation goes down at the same rate as the thermometer.

If it’s not the lack of sun then why (seemingly all of a sudden in the middle of September) every year do I get that feeling that gnaws away inside me?

It’s a really difficult emotion to describe but it’s one I’ve heard others reference: one that says “you’re not good enough”. It’s just an overwhelming feeling of sadness that seems to creep up on me from nowhere.

Autumn seems to be coming earlier. Usually, as my hayfever tails off, the need to start taking my asthma inhaler begins – but this year, they’re overlapping. That can only mean one thing: I need to start battening down the hatches earlier.

Reviewing the things I listed last year that tend to help means I can prepare myself for what is to come:

  • Cold showers – unfortunately the house we’ve moved to doesn’t have a shower and it’s going to be awkward to put one in until we convert the loft. It’s high on my list of priorities, though.
  • Autumn half-term holiday to somewhere sunny – not currently booked as we went away in the summer holidays. However, I am speaking at a conference in Miami in early December.
  • Schedule less time away from home – a lot easier this year than last because of the changing nature of my role at Mozilla.
  • Vitamin D tablets – purchasing today.
  • SAD light – already out of its box in preparation. I may take some preventative ‘doses’ on grey days during this coming week.
  • Daily walks – I’ve started walking every morning, although I may need to change this to midday later in the year.

Of course, the best thing would be to split my time between our home in Northumberland and somewhere like California or the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to be happening anytime, as our children get older and we ‘put down roots’.

Managing my mental health is one of the most important things I can do – for myself, my family, and my employers. It’s all too easy to get into a spiral from which it’s extremely difficult to escape. Hopefully, being mindful, starting earlier, and taking the steps above will make the next six months manageable.

Thanks to those who commented on my post last year with some suggestions:

  • Joel mentioned that changing his diet, getting outside more, and altering some of his activities (less Facebook, less fiction reading) helped.
  • Mark suggested fitting daylight CFL’s around the house to brighten the place up.
  • Jade recommended St. John’s Wort and Evening Primrose to fight off depression – as well as waking up with sunlight.
  • Clint swears by feeling the full force of nature by standing on the beach during a gale, writing more, and watching fun movies.

To finish, a quotation:

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.

(Albert Camus)

2 thoughts on “Battening down the hatches (again)

  1. Opening up my laptop back at work this morning with a sense of impending doom I can’t put my finger on. Nothing to do with work, I love my job. Nothing to do with family or friends, I’m very lucky.

    To read a blog that puts this into words has been a ‘day saver’ this morning.

    Thank you for writing this.

    I’ve felt the same darkness creeping in since last week. I too can recognise a pattern and off I went to speak to my GP on Friday to discuss it, knowing that I need to action sooner rather than when I’ve become sloth like, moody and difficult to live with.

    Things that help me:

    Joining an exercise class. I’ve been going to a cardio boxing class for the last couple of months, the endorphins coupled with the fact that I’m part of a group help me from retreating too far back into myself.

    Eating good. Low GI has been a saviour for me in the past.

    Meditation-in the evenings to calm my mind. Using the Headspace app.

    Reading literature. Escaping into a fictional space-the anxiety reducing technique of distraction, when things seem too black. I think American Female Novelists saved my life in my one of my worst bouts of depression.

    Doing something kind for someone. I find my moods become quite self indulgent so scheduling a time to visit an elderly relative I don’t often see, doing some volunteering or giving something away to others helps me to refocus.

    Thanks for sharing about the light and alarm clock. I think this could be really good for me.

    1. Hi Natalie, thanks for sharing this! I hadn’t considered a low-GI diet before, so perhaps I’ll give that a try.

      Really glad that you’re seeking professional help. We’re collectively too reticent to do that when it can aid us so much. 🙂

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