Saturday, December 28, 2019

Trying to wake up

Happy Solstice! Although I have been focused on celebrating Advent and the Birth of Christ, I breathe a sigh of relief when we are on the other side and the days are starting to get longer again. We did a little Hanukkah dinner, too, meditating on the wonder of the Light that stayed.

(I came in to write about being tired....and discovered my computer was drained of energy, how ironic! Trying not to be mad at The Person who goes around plugging and unplugging things.)

(The Internet is being slow, too...but at least I can write!)

A few years ago, I read a book about Winter Blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Then last winter (earlier this year, apparently) I wrote a post here about my findings.

Side note: Winter Blues (Norman E. Rosenthal) is worth reading for the case studies alone. Many of us will recognize ourselves in those mentioned...

"The physical difficulties start first: eating more, sleeping more, and the slowing down of brain functioning. Initially, I'm not sad. I can still sit down and laugh with friends and enjoy my favorite TV shows. As it becomes obvious that I'm less able to function at work or with friends, mental depression starts taking over. I have trouble writing Christmas cards, which adds to my depression, since I am unable to communicate with people I really care about..." (Case study of Peggy, page 29 Kindle Version)

"In his work as a sales representative, he found his productivity declined markedly in the winter months. He would sleep late, cancel appointments, and spend much of the day at home, depressed. When he was able to get to work, he came home exhausted and would collapse on the couch for the rest of the evening." (Neal, case study and president of the SunBox Company, page 26 Kindle Version)

"More bothersome to Herb than his social isolation was his decreased creativity during his depressed periods. He would procrastinate at work because "everything seemed like a mountain" to him, and his productivity decreased markedly. It was only by grim perseverance that he was able to write up his research from the previous spring and summer. His sleep was disrupted, and his characteristic enthusiasm for life evaporated." (Case study of Herb, page 12 Kindle Version)

..and there are more, but you get the idea. Physical lack of energy leading to lack of productivity leading to depression leading to even less motivation and productivity. In these cases, directly corresponding to the decreased daylight hours.

Back to my observations: Turns out my findings this year are similar to last year's even though I didn't remember my observations from last winter until I went back and read about it.

Last Fall/Winter:

-daily walks didn't help
-hospital lighting DID help
-the holidays messed up our sleep schedule (uh oh, here we come)

This Fall/Winter:

-daily walks don't give more energy, but might help distinguish day from night
-Hygge is helpful, but there are limits
-light therapy might work

Over the last week while we had colds, we did a lot of watching movies under blankets. I signed us up for Disney+, and pulled up a "flickering fireplace" video on the other laptop. Our Christmas tree was up too, so it was looking cozy.

I guess you could say we were able to achieve "Hygge" at home. However, it was so dreary outside that it was very hard to keep track of time. I started up with the "What time is it? What day is it?" and knew I had to do something.

Turns out candlelight isn't always the best way to be productive. And I remember now that the SAD book talks about different types of lighting for different purposes. So while the Christmas tree and soft music are good for relaxing, it wasn't helping me be more alert at all. I've always had trouble winding down in the evening, so in the past have focused on creating a calm atmosphere, rather than energizing.

I remember back in college swearing off fluorescent lighting. I walked into my dorm room, cringed, got myself a little lamp with a soft glow and a string of Christmas lights (those pretty warm lights before LED), and my roommate and I never used the overhead again all year (or the next year, when we roomed together again).

But as I'm rereading "Winter Blues" and trying to find a way to be more alert, I'm realizing that bright white light is okay sometimes. It's okay to not be cozy all the time. I haven't quite figured out how to switch back and forth, but I'm bringing back some bright lights.

I went and got out the Happy Lamp that I bought a few years ago. I had bought it in the U.S., so it had the wrong voltage. My father-in-law rigged up a converter (transformer? adapter?), which seems to work, but the unit gets pretty hot, so I don't leave it unattended. It does seem to help! I just turn it on whenever I start feeling like I'm dragging, usually mid-afternoon.

Along the same lines, "Winter Blues" also discusses the idea of having one room of the house designated to be a "Light Room," with all-white furnishings and lighting and white robes for people to wear to reflect the lighting. It sounds weird but supposedly is pretty effective and even used in some corporate settings in Scandinavia.

That idea might be a little hard to pull off in a home where rooms have to be multi-purpose. I have some areas of the apartment where I want to add some white furniture or light wallpaper, but it definitely isn't going to be monochromatic.

So, I'm changing my mind about bright white lights and revisiting some SAD strategies.

I wrote this post over a few weeks, so things have fluctuated a bit. For one thing, it turned out I really was coming down with a cold. So it's a relief that there's an actual reason I felt bad physically. Also, having the solstice behind us helps. And, a little of the holiday pressure is gone, although we still have some holidays to go this season.

We'll see how we do with New Year's Eve!

P.S. This post alllmost didn't happen...Blogger wouldn't save it, but I was on top of it this time and copied it into another window first...whew!

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad it was saved!

    I almost have to laugh, thinking of a "light room"....only because of the white robes. That's just too weird. However, bright light is my delight. I've always loved it and still recall college roommates not being impressed.

    So far, so good here, I guess. I just need to get over taking these little internet breaks...although, as the alternative would probably be taking a eating something break, perhaps it isn't all bad.


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