Spring Forward: Daylight Saving Time

In this post, I discuss how my SAD symptoms decrease with the time change.

It’s that time of year again!  We pushed our clocks forward one hour this week (in the US at least)!  Before all you haters start complaining about how the time change messes up your sleep (and it does 😝) I don’t really want to hear it! 😉  I love time change day (in the spring)!  It is the day my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) dies ya’ll!  

For those of us in the Northern Plains, the time change really does make the best use of our daylight hours that fluctuate wildly throughout the year.  If we stayed on Standard Time all year, it would start getting light at 3:30 am in the summer (no joke).  Whereas if we stayed on Daylight Time all year, it wouldn’t get light till after 8 am in the winter.  I’m not ok with either of these options.😝

Winter passed quickly

I am AMAZED at how quickly this dark winter flew by.  It always goes more quickly than I think (worry) it will, but this year was one for the books.  I was VERY fortunate as my SAD was super mild this year.  I hardly noticed it at all.  I think it’s probably due, in large part, to the mild winter we had.  We had a good number of sunny, warm days all through December, January, and February (sometimes with temps as high as the 50s and 60s)!  This meant Puppers and I were able to enjoy a good amount of time outside which I think helped things IMMENSELY! (The few robins that stuck around and sang to me all winter were a nice touch too, Mother Nature!)

Mr. Trekker was also home more than normal, thanks to some remote classes he’s been teaching due to COVID.  Having some company around the house certainly helped, as well. (Full disclosure, due to some other circumstances–partially COVID–I was also on low-dose antidepressants for the first time this year.)

Related posts:  Why the Time Change?; Summer Solstice: The Longest Day; Therapy Lamp and Calm App Reviews; I HATE Seasonal Depression!Enjoying the Winter Solstice; Increasing Daylight as Winter Wains; Embrace the Dark Winter Days

SAD symptoms end with the time change

I am always amazed at how much better I feel once my SAD symptoms start to ebb.  It really gives you an appreciation for how strongly they affect your life.  You don’t always notice it while you’re experiencing them.  You know that everyone seems to be keen to IRRITATE THE HE** OUT OF YOU! (must they swallow so loudly?! 😂)  And you can’t help the tears that come when EVERYTHING YOU TRY TO DO FAILS MISERABLY!!! (Why am I the only one whose life is so difficult?! 🙄)

I hope it’s obvious that I’m being sarcastic with these statements.  In all seriousness though, I find it amazing how my SAD symptoms cast a shadow on every other aspect of my life.  Even though I personally experience it, it’s hard to believe it can cloud your judgment so much on whatever thing you’re dealing with at any given moment.   Every problem seems 10x worse when SAD is already weighing you down.  Any other stressor you feel is amplified.  As someone who struggles with anxiety throughout the year, the SAD worsens those symptoms, as well.  I am a master champion at catastrophizing future events that I’m worried about on a good day.  When I’m dealing with SAD, as well, that ability becomes a superpower. 🙄😝

Every fall I swear, I’m not going to let it affect me as much this year.  I know what’s coming, I know how to deal with it, I know it WILL END, I just have to get through it…and then every spring I’m back to, “Wow!  Was all that extra angst I was feeling JUST from my SAD?”  Maybe someday I will learn. 😐

Take back your power from SAD

Our brains are powerful tools, and they can allow our imaginations to run away with themselves if we permit them.  While its important to always be patient and understanding with ourselves, it’s also important to try to reign in the negative thoughts, especially when we can speak the name of the demon they come from (“SAD”).  By doing so we can help to lessen its control over us.  Fortunately, we CAN control that demon, and it’s time to take our power back!

Do you find the time change affects your mood?  Tell me about it in the comments!

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The time change is upon us again! As we once again "Spring Forward", I reflect on how the time change eases the SAD symptoms I experience each winter.

 

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Why the Time Change?

Did it feel like your life was an hour longer on Sunday (or Saturday night)?  It was, thanks to “Fall Back”!  Don’t worry though, in a few months you’ll lose that hour when we “Spring Forward” again. 😝

The time change is so weird!  Why do we do it? 😋  For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in a state that didn’t observe Daylight Saving Time.  So, during my formative years, we never changed our clocks.  In the winter, prime time TV would start at 8 pm and the late news would come on at 11.  During the summer, Prime Time would start at 7 pm with the late news coming on at 10.  Other than that, we never noticed any differences at all (though we lived near the Michigan border and I knew that state did this weird, time change thing 😜).

My first Time Change experience

In my freshman year in college, I got to experience my first “Fall Back”, I was so excited! 😉  Do you know what’s really crazy?  I went to college in the same state I grew up in! 😂

“Huh?!” you may say.  So, it’s complicated.  Back then, the very few counties in Indiana, that were near Chicago, did observe the time change.  This was because many of the people who lived there actually worked in Chicago (or at least northeast Illinois). 

My new college friends thought my reaction was a little strange.  I found the idea that we got a whole extra hour added to our lives to be fascinating!  There was one particular guy there, that night, who found my weird reaction amusing…I guess it didn’t bother him too much though since he asked me to marry him a “short” eight years later! 😂

The History of Daylight Saving Time

The time change has been “a thing” since the early 1900s, at least in some areas.  It became popular in the ’70s (before my time, for the record 😉) during the gas shortage/energy crisis because, in theory, it would help to reduce energy use.

This may be true in certain locations, but in western South Dakota, we have less than nine hours of daylight during the darkest points of the winter.  Whether those hours fall 7 – 4 or 8 – 5 doesn’t really matter…you still have more than 14 hours of darkness to contend with. 😝   

Various state governors have also implemented the time change to help keep school children safer, as falling back an hour allows more daylight around the time the kids are traveling to school.

Standard Time is actually helpful

I do think the time change is ultimately a good thing, at least for those of us living in the more extreme latitudes.  If we stayed on Daylight Saving Time all year, the sun wouldn’t come up until AFTER 8 am during the darkest months…no thanks!  In contrast, if we stayed on Standard time all year, the sun would (literally) be coming up around 3:30 in the morning in the summer–especially seeing as we have an east-facing bedroom, I’m gonna pass on this one, as well. 😋  So, while it may be a complete pain-in-the-a$$, I think the time change does make the best use of the extensive variations in the amount of daylight we experience over the course of a year.

The effects of the time change

I’ve talked at length about my struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the past, and the time change usually triggers it fully.  Funnily enough, I don’t remember EVER experiencing it growing up in Indiana.  Not even when it seemed like we didn’t see the sun from October through March (unless temps were below zero 😱)–for anyone who isn’t aware, the Great Lakes region is known for being rather cloudy, especially in the colder months.

I don’t even remember noticing the dark so much in college, which was the first time I experienced true darkness before 5 pm.  I’m not sure if it was because I was so busy with classes, homework, and college life, that I just didn’t have time to pay attention?  Or if life was relatively easy, being that I was a college student without any major responsibilities 😇?

Another funny note, the full state of Indiana does now participate in time change (they started after we moved away), but they’re STILL weird.  The vast majority of the state is on Eastern time and changes with New York City, but those few counties near the Illinois border are still on Central time and change with Chicago (for the same reasons I mentioned above). 

Current SAD symptoms

I’ve definitely been feeling the SAD in the last few weeks.  The weather in the Black Hills is usually fairly decent, but Fall does tend to be one of our cloudier times of the year.  That, and the lack of daylight, tends to exacerbate any SAD symptoms I’m currently feeling.

It’s INCREDIBLY frustrating when you’re already feeling lousy and Mother Nature just smiles at you and keeps kicking your emotional butt with her cruddy weather…but there’s something oddly calming about it too.  Like she does not give a SH*T about how we feel.  She just does her thing, completely oblivious and ambivalent about our needs or comforts.  It’s humbling, and I find the consistency of it somewhat comforting, strangely enough.

This time of year, the few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, are usually the roughest for me.  The excitement and decorations of Halloween are over, but it’s too early for Christmas (despite what some might tell you. 🙄)  I’m not sure which is the chicken, and which is the egg, but I also find my SAD symptoms compound (or are worsened) by any other stressors/worries I have going on.  I think SAD heightens your sensitivity and lessens your tolerance overall, making you more susceptible to the negative effects of these other triggers.

I LOVE Thanksgiving though, so once we get to that week it gets easier.  Then the Christmas Season is in full swing, complete with all the lights, music, and holiday spirit, so I’m happier.  Things are also a bit easier with my rambunctious, four-legged “office mate” to keep me company (she doesn’t seem depressed. 😉🐶)

Who can be unhappy with that face looking at you?

So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be hanging out in front of my therapy lamp while popping the Vitamin D3. 😋  We just gotta buckle down and “embrace the darkness” for the next few months.  Fear not though…it’s only about seven weeks till the Winter Solstice, and then the days will start getting longer again! 🌞

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Ever wonder why we change our clocks twice a year? Read on for an explanation, and how it affects my personal struggle with SAD (Seasonal Depression).

 

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Increasing Daylight as Winter Wains

As we near the end of the cold season, I discuss our ever-lengthening daylight and the subsequent reduction of my SAD symptoms.

This weekend will see another of my favorite days of the year…the first day of the new year that the sun will stay up till 5 pm at our house!  The daylight is screaming back now! 😎 (The Black Hills sit between the Trekkers’ house and the western horizon, so we have to wait a little further into the year for this to actually happen.)

Improved SAD symptoms

I’ve mentioned previously that I struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the winter months.  This year, my SAD symptoms haven’t been quite as severe as I’ve experienced in the past.  This could be due to several factors:

–until this week, when we’ll be lucky if we see a high of 10 🥶, we’ve had a warmer-than-normal winter.  We’ve also had A LOT of sunny days (so Puppers and I have been able to spend a good deal of time outside, soaking up that natural Vitamin D3!)

–one positive benefit of COVID is that Mr. Trekker has been working from home a lot more.  It really helps to have him here in the early evening, after the sun sets but when it’s still too early to make dinner, to help keep me company.

–due to COVID (and some other factors) I went on an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) antidepressant for the first time this year.  I’ve thought about trying them in the past but was hesitant to take the plunge.  I was really struggling early last spring with the onset of COVID and some other life events that were getting me down and my doctor suggested I try this low-dose option.  My body has handled it well.  Things are improving so I’m hoping to wean off of it as the days continue to get longer.  I plan to keep it in my arsenal though, as an option for next fall when the days grow short yet again.

–Working as a Freelancer seems to help my mood as well…most of the time 😇 .  January was always the worst month of the year for me at my former job.  That stress, combined with my struggle with the lack of daylight, caused a two-pronged attack on my spirits.

For the record, a freelancer’s life does come with its own stressors (contrary to popular belief, we don’t just sit on the couch eating Bon Bon’s all day! 😝)  There is the worry caused by always working on short-term projects, which results in little job security.  This, obviously, means you always need to seek out new work.   And it turns out, you have to work harder when you literally don’t get paid unless you’re performing work-related tasks.  You realize how easy it is to slack off at a “normal” job when you receive a paycheck regardless of how long you spend talking to your friend, or how much time you frit away surreptitiously checking Facebook when the boss isn’t looking. 😇)

I think the biggest advantage of working from home is that it allows me the opportunity to see daylight so regularly.  Whether it’s sitting inside with the sun streaming in the windows; watching the snowflakes float down on a cold day; or sitting outside on the back patio as the sun bathes me on a warm day; I’m at least able to experience it now.  This seems to make all the difference to help ease the symptoms of anxiety and winter depression that I have experienced in the past, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.  

More daylight improves mood!

It’s amazing to me how just knowing the days are getting longer raises my spirits.  While we have gained almost an hour of daylight in the last 6 weeks since the Winter Solstice, it is still mostly dark by 5:30 at night.  There is something about the fact, though, that when I’m standing in the kitchen, preparing dinner, instead of there being complete blackness outside the window, there is–at least a small hint–of light.  That really improves my outlook on things!  

I still feel the suffocating frustration at how little daylight we have, but since I KNOW it’s going to continue staying lighter, longer, each and every day, and I KNOW that the beginning of spring is now only a few weeks away, this irritation slackens.  It also helps that I know our daylight will continue lengthening for the next 6 months!  That’s enough to ease the ache considerably!  

As our long, dark days wane, I hope anyone else who wrestles with this exasperating condition is finding their struggle is easing, as well.  As our sun comes back and our daylight continues to increase in both duration and frequency, let’s all take a lesson from the Beatles, and get out there and make it a good day, sunshine! 😎

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Our days are gradually geting longer and we are gaining sunlight in earnest now. Read on as I discuss my joy at our increasing daylight!

 

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Enjoying the Winter Solstice

In this post, I discuss my excitement for the shortest day of the year. We have made it to the Winter Solstice! The longest night of the year is behind us!

🎵 It’s the most…wonderful…DAY…of the year!!! 🎶   You might be thinking I must be talking about Christmas, right?…you would be wrong! 😉  Today is the Winter Solstice ya’ll! (…in the Northern Hemisphere.)  It is one of my ABSOLUTE, MOST FAVORITE days of the entire year!

Why–you may ask–would someone who struggles with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) be happy about the day of the year with the shortest amount of daylight?  That’s simple!  Starting tomorrow…THE DAYS START GETTING LONGER AGAIN!!!  WHOO HOO!!!  WE MADE IT!!! 🌞  We did it!  We survived!

Days with little sunlight

It never ceases to amaze me, the first of November arrives and the time change hits, and every year it feels like it will be an ETERNITY until the days start getting longer again.  But then you slowly plod through the first week…and then the second…and then it’s the week before Thanksgiving (so things are starting to perk up a bit, I always enjoy Thanksgiving!)…and then the Christmas season is in full swing!  Between decorating the house, shopping for gifts, and singing carols, who has time to feel down?  Then before you know it, the Solstice is here again (and it usually arrives more quickly than I expected!)

The first few weeks of January are always a bit rough, as well.  Everybody takes their Christmas lights down, so their twinkling goodness is no longer there to light up those long, dark nights…the joy of the Christmas season is over, and now you’re just stuck with the COLD! 😨  But, at least the days start getting longer by that point…and the first day it’s still reasonably light out at 5 pm, you know you’ve conquered another LONG, DARK season. 💪

The history of the Winter Solstice

December 21…the Winter Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere)…the longest night of the year.  It’s also called “Midwinter” (which seems odd, since winter is just ramping up, and, according to the astronomical calendar, today is only the initial day of the cold season).  

Science confirms the Winter Solstice occurs when the sun reaches its most southerly point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.  This is as opposed to its summer counterpart—when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer. (If you’re living in the Southern Hemisphere, the solstices are, obviously, switched).

Historically, the Iranians called it “Yalda Night”; the Druids, “Yule”, “Mother Night” and “Alban Arthan” meaning, “The Light of Arthur” (based on the legend of King Arthur).  A ceremony commemorating this day is still held at Stonehenge each year.  The ancient Mayans believed in offering blood sacrifices to the sun god to placate him into returning his light to the people.  Fortunately, we don’t take things to that extreme these days (though in the darkest days of winter, I may have considered pricking a finger or something). 😝

The dictionary defines “solstice” as, “a furthest, or culminating point, a turning point.”  The word derived from Latin is loosely translated as “the sun stands still”. 

Interestingly enough (according to one of my favorite apps) the shortest amount of daylight doesn’t take place only today, it also occurs for several days surrounding the Solstice.  This makes sense as the sun’s southward track has to stop and then reverse itself.  

I LOVE the Winter Solstice!

Today is, by far, one of my favorite days of the year!  It may seem strange, for someone who struggles with depression caused by lack of daylight, to be so excited about the day of the year that offers the least light.  But that’s why it’s worth celebrating, we’ve made it!  We’re no longer toiling to reach the end of a long, dark tunnel (as daylight wanes).  Starting tomorrow, we’re basking in the warm glow of the light at the end of that tunnel (as the days will now begin to grow longer).  

This is what negotiating a life with anxiety and depression looks like.  It’s all about successfully mitigating the symptoms of these disorders by seeking out the small blips of “light”–whatever gives us a sense of peace and happiness–that are always present, even in the darkest moments.  

In case you were wondering, yes, I find the Summer Solsticeor day with the longest amount of daylightto be a bit depressing. The reason being, after that day we begin our prolonged trek into darkness.  

So get out there and enjoy our ever-increasing amounts of daylight!  To our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, you have my sympathies today, as you now commence your long slog to “the Shortest Day”…but, we’ve obliged you all long enough, we’re taking our daylight back!  It’s our turn to enjoy the light because…

HERE COMES THE SUN!!! 😎🤗😁

Do you have any feelings regarding the shortest day of the year?  Tell me about them in the comments! 

 

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Read on for reasons why someone like me, who struggles with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) loves the Winter Solstice!

 

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A Trekker’s Manifesto

In this post I discuss my motivations for writing this blog.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”        

― John Muir

Some may wonder why I write this blog…

One of my favorite songs is “Noise”, by Kenny Chesney.  For me, it’s a rallying cry, of sorts, as it well expresses my growing disillusionment with the rat race that is the modern lifestyle.  I firmly believe one of the central problems with modern society is that we are constantly overstimulated with busy lives, busy minds and busy spirits.  The song demonstrates how this “noise” that continuously engulfs us makes us miserable.  It is unescapable and unending.  My personal belief is this overstimulation contributes to the anxiety so many feel.  I know, for myself, the anxious symptoms I experience peak when my life feels the most hectic. 

Some lyrics from the song state:

“…Yeah we scream, yeah we shout ’til we don’t have a voice.  In the streets, in the crowds, it ain’t nothing but noise…”

We’re constantly pulled in multiple directions at once:  relationships, chores, work and school, hobbies, attempting-to-find-some-time-to-just-relax! 

“Twenty-four hour television, gets so loud that no one listens…”

In addition, we’re persistently bombarded by 24-hour news cycles, streaming music, and video, our sources of stimulation continue on ad-nauseum…. I can feel my blood pressure rising just THINKING about all of this! 🤯  

Articles are written about the burnout people feel.  How they are striving to “unplug”, to have a better work-life balance, to take back control of their lives.  But then, they’re told to “lean in” and live “well-rounded” lives…

 “There really ain’t no conversation, ain’t nothing left to the imagination…”

From an early age, we’re exposed to so much technology that our creativity is squashed.  Children used to spend hours playing outside, now their days are filled with activities structured by others and devices that tell them what a game is and how to play it.  We don’t think for ourselves anymore or take a step back and critically examine situations.  Instead, we allow ourselves to be influenced and pressured by what our friends are “liking” on social media, or what our trusted news source is telling us is a fact. 

“…trapped in our phones and we can’t make it stop…”

We’re all adrenaline junkies running around constantly stimulated by the technology that continuously surrounds us.  This stimulation is so persistent that when we have to go more than 30 minutes without the dopamine hits it provides we get anxious and think we’re bored—even though that’s what life is supposed to normally feel like—we just aren’t used to it.  Our phones chirp mercilessly, constantly giving us the recognition we’ve come to crave as it means that someone “liked” our post or tweet, or is trying to contact us so we don’t feel so small and alone…

*This may seem contradictory for a blogger; whose job is dependent on the use of technology.  To be clear, I’m not anti-technology, I’m pro the purposeful and controlled use of it.  It’s a tool that should be used deliberately and within limits, without allowing it to control our lives.*


I write for my love of the outdoors…

“Sometimes I wonder, how did we get here?  …we didn’t turn it on, but we can’t turn it off…

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We’re constantly surrounded by all this “noise” but we haven’t yet evolved to handle it, and I don’t think we are meant to.  We weren’t designed for the modern-day lifestyle.  Evolution didn’t prepare us for this craziness, because it isn’t a natural thing.  We’re meant to be surrounded by the peace and tranquility that nature brings: the perfectly formed snowflake; the sound of chirping birds and the whistling wind; the silent clamor of snow falling in the woods; the pitter-patter of rain against the window and the “CRASH!” of thunder outside.  We’re meant to feel the sun warm our skin as the wind caresses our face and to smell the fresh, earthy aroma of wet dirt that a fresh rain brings. 

I’m an avid Nature Girl.  I enjoy pretty much any activity that gives me an excuse to be outside.  I’m also high energy (in case that isn’t obvious). 😉  I like the outdoors, active hobbies and I find walls induce claustrophobia.  I grew up as a country-girl, playing in the dirt and fresh air, so, outdoor recreation is a perfect hobby for me. 

This love of nature brings me peace by enjoying the beauty and simplicity of the environment that surrounds us.  Many people find comfort in these things and I think there’s a reason for that, it’s our intended habitat.  It’s where we’re supposed to be, so, we connect with it on a basic, transcendent level.  The most instinctual part of our being longs for it.  I feel my spirit is renewed by nature, so I want to use this blog to encourage others to enjoy this incredible experience, as well.  

For me, this peace is also spiritual, in a sense.  Not everyone agrees with this, and that’s ok, religion is a very personal journey, and everyone has to choose what’s best for them.  I feel my life is richer and I find hope in despairing situations when I embrace the spiritual side of life.  Experiencing nature aids my spiritual journey as it helps me to form a tangible connection to the Creator, by communing with the extraordinary creation.

I’ve enjoyed being out in nature since I was a kid, I especially love the mountains.  I still remember the instant I fell in love with them.  Mr. Trekker and I were enjoying our first road trip together, in 2005, shortly after we both graduated college.  We were at Mesa Verde National Park, standing at one of the lookouts on top of the mesa, with the whole of Colorado stretching before us (maybe THAT’s why I love the state so much?!) 😉  I remember thinking, “I could live here”, and feeling a connection to the mountains, on a visceral level.  At the time, the Trekkers were preparing to move to North Carolina.  Until then, I had only ever lived in Indiana, this was my first time experiencing the Rockies.  I had visited the Appalachians throughout Pennsylvania and New England on numerous family vacations and had always enjoyed the mountain scenery, but this time, something struck a chord within me… 

It would be six years before we returned to the mountain west, this time to stay.  We’d had enough of the big city, and after numerous adventures in the mountains of western North Carolina, we were hooked on our outdoor activities.  The Black Hills aren’t quite the Rockies, but the smaller towns and simpler way of life—not to mention the frequently beautiful weather—suit me just fine.


I write to describe my struggle with anxiety and (hopefully) to help others who are struggling…

When we moved to South Dakota, I started experiencing frequent symptoms of anxiety.  To make matters worse, I also began noticing depressive symptoms due to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), thanks to the minimal hours of sunlight–and the resulting Vitamin D deficiency—present in the Northern Plains during the winter.  I set out on a mission to learn methods to alleviate the symptoms I was experiencing, so I began working with a therapist. 

For some, anti-anxiety medications work wonders.  For myself, I hated the woozy, detached feeling I experienced as a side-effect, so I sought out natural and behavior-based methods as an alternative. I have found that by taking a step back from the continuous “noise” of our modern lifestyle, through pursuing outdoor adventures, and by employing intentional methods such as mindfulness, I am able to effectively manage the condition. 

Besides the obvious benefit of a flood of endorphins brought on by physical exercise, I think experiencing nature helps to decrease anxiety symptoms because it has a tendency to test our resolve.  It’s an incredibly humbling–and somewhat frightening—experience when you find yourself at a different location on the trail than you originally thought, and you realize how far you still have to go as the sun sinks ever lower towards the horizon.  Your concern is heightened as the cold wind intensifies, and dark clouds close in.  You come to the very sobering realization that you are at the mercy of Mother Nature and her elements. 

This is a moment where anxiety is truly warranted!  But, it’s also an incredibly empowering moment.  You realize that you’re reliant on your own devices, that your ability to get home rests squarely on your own shoulders…and you CAN do this!  It’s liberating when you do, eventually, make it home safely.  The feat raises your confidence level as you now know that you are capable, and you can handle the challenges life throws at your feet.  It helps you to realize how powerful your inner strength really is!  

I think we often forget that anxiety can be a useful tool.  It’s a natural, beneficial response to an element in our environment that’s posing a risk to us.  But it should be reserved for situations where our safety is actually at risk. Unfortunately, these aren’t the situations that often cause anxiety in modern times.  Oftentimes, “modern” stress stems from situations that are, frequently, not threatening at all.  As I had a therapist once explain it, “your body doesn’t know the difference between being called into a meeting in your boss’ office and being chased by a saber-toothed tiger!  It responds the same.”  “Good” stress situations (such as finding yourself lost on a trail) help to keep anxious feelings in perspective.  They help us to realize that some circumstances unnecessarily induce anxiety within us.

Beyond personal empowerment, basking in the awesome power of nature helps to remind us that we aren’t the center of the universe. It’s humbling (and relieving) to experience that power overshadow many of our worries, and it helps us to realize that many of them aren’t as unique or catastrophic as we think they are. What is an impending root canal in comparison to the immense “ROAR!” created as millions of gallons of water pour over a waterfall every day?  Or when you observe the natural forces required to create locations such as the Grand Canyon?


I write for my quest for a more tranquil lifestyle…

“Every room, every house, every shade of noise.  All the floors, all the walls, they all shake with noise.  We can’t sleep, we can’t think, can’t escape the noise, we can’t take the noise so we just make noise!”  

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We were all dropped into this technological soup that we aren’t equipped to handle.  To mitigate the stress brought on by our modern lifestyles, we seek out more stimulation (or noise), when what we really need is rest!  We get worked up from the constant information and news, we worry about our friends and family, about the state of the world. Then, due to all this, we struggle to sleep at night which just leads to exhaustion, more stress, more anxiety and depression…WE NEED A BREAK!  We need to be able to take time to just STOP!…relax…take a breath…and enjoy the natural beauty and peace that constantly surround us.

I write this blog because I want to help people find their break.  Through my struggle with anxiety, I’ve found that one of the best ways to control the condition is to actively seek out activities and lengthy amounts of time where I remove the craziness of the modern world from my life and get back to what matters most.  The Bible says, “no man can serve two masters”, and that’s true in life as well.  We seem to know that we need to take control of our lives, but we don’t know how to do so.  This blog is about my search for a more tranquil lifestyle.  I write to help others with a similar desire. 

I find I’m able to mitigate my anxiety symptoms by employing a more tranquil existence.  I strive to maintain a purposeful mindset where I utilize deliberate techniques to control my symptoms, such as mindfulness, meditation and journaling.  Mindfulness helps us to focus on the present, not an upcoming meeting with the boss or an argument we had with our spouse that morning.  It also helps us to fully enjoy whatever we’re engaging in at that current moment and to make the most of it.  Journaling allows me to relieve the thoughts that are bouncing around in my head in a productive way.  It helps me to view my concerns objectively, and either devise solutions to them or realize they aren’t as concerning as I first thought.   

A peaceful lifestyle helps to lessen anxiety.  This is because the more stressed we become, the lower our tolerance is to handle stressful situations, which increases the likelihood that we’ll feel anxiety regarding them.  In contrast, the calmer we feel, the higher our tolerance to handle stressful situations, and the better adept we’ll be at using coping methods to alleviate any anxiety that results from them.

For myself, tranquility means not constantly feeling hyped up, not constantly dwelling about things to come or constantly replaying previous conversations in my head.  It means focusing solely on aspects of my life and the world at large that I actually have control over (such as how I respond to circumstances).  For elements of life that we can’t control, worrying about them doesn’t help anyway, so why bother? (To be clear, this is easy to say, but NEVER easy to accomplish in practice.  This is one of those skills I toil with on a daily basis.)

 These practices have lead me to a more fulfilling life, a decrease in symptoms of anxiety, and greater control over the disorder.  Writing this blog also helps me return my focus to nature and on the things I enjoy.  It helps me focus on positive things and reminds me of the empowering effect of the activities we pursue; how they stretch the bounds of my comfort zone and show me how capable I really am.  I hope by sharing these experiences with others it can be a vehicle to help lead them to a more tranquil, thoughtful, less anxious experience, as well.


I writ
e the blog as a guidebook of sorts…

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I also write this blog as a type of guidebook, to share the adventures we’ve had and to assist others who may want to follow in our footsteps (so to speak).  I truly enjoy traveling, the sites we see, the random hodgepodge of people we meet. 

Since we live in the Black Hills of South Dakota, my posts primarily focus on activities in that area.  However, Mr. Trekker and I are also avid travelers, so I also outline the various journeys we embark on around the country.  The Trekkers engage in an eclectic mix of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, canoeing, exploring 4-wheel-drive roads, car camping, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and road trips, among others.  

I want to encourage others to try activities that are outside their comfort zone, while at the same time give them practical, useful tips to help make that experience as painless as possible. I want to spark their interest for new activities, but also give them an awareness of what hurdles may lie in their path so that they can embark on their adventures well prepared.  For those who may be unable to partake of some of these sites, I hope to bring the experience to them, in a sense, through my writing.


To Conclude:

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The techniques listed above have empowered me to take more control of my anxiety.  I don’t put my issues out there to garner pity from others.  Rather, I seek to relate my personal struggles with the disorder, as well as the methods I’ve learned to help control it.  I want this blog to be a place where others can come to acquire these tools for themselves.  I’ve accepted the fact that my anxiety is a part of me, that it’s something I will, likely, live with the rest of my life.  But, that doesn’t mean I have to allow it control over my life.  I strive, every day, to reign in those worrisome thoughts and emotions and use them to improve myself.  There will be some tough days.  Sometimes, the anxiety will win.  But that’s just one day.   Life is a marathon, not a sprint!  The sun WILL rise again tomorrow!  So, when we have a bad day, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and press on!

Part of what I love about the outdoors is that nature cuts out the BS.  It takes away our technology and gets us back to basics.  It humbles us as it forces us to acknowledge there are some things in life we can’t control.  Along with that, though, it helps us to understand that some of the things that cause us anxiety aren’t really as threatening as we might first think.  Nature gets us back to our intrinsic roots.  I find that one of the rare times I can truly put my mind and spirit at peace is when I’m engaging with and appreciating the natural world, in all its glory.  I want to share that with others. 

So, some may ask, “why do I write this blog and spend so much time outside?”  To that I answer, “to escape the noise!”

*Ya’ll, I’m telling you, this song is awesome.  If you aren’t familiar with it, I BEG you, go listen to it.  This is three-and-a-half minutes that IS worth your time (the video is pretty cool, too).  For your convenience, I’ve linked to it here.  Pay careful attention to the last couple of shots near the end, see if you notice a common theme…*

I HATE Seasonal Depression!

I attempt to shed a “sunny” light on the dark days the winter season brings…

We’re currently mired in the midst of dark, winter days here in the northern portions of the northern hemisphere.  Days with little daylight are rough.  I’ve written previously about my annual struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  It starts hurting somewhere in mid-September, though it really ramps up after the time change in early November.  Specifically, from the time change through the next three weeks or so until Thanksgiving.  Then, the Holidays are in full swing and I’m excited about Christmas so the ache eases a bit.

I was SO THANKFUL, several years ago, when they changed the date clocks fall back to the first Sunday in November instead of the last in October (yes, that week MATTERS).  It meant staving off the worst of the SAD ache for a few more weeks.  

Then, after the Holidays, I start struggling again.  The weather is crappy, the sun is still setting well before 5:00 pm, and most of the sparkling, Christmas lights are gone from neighborhood windows, so they no longer offer their break from the seemingly, endless darkness.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) hurts!

Individual people experience varying degrees of severity and symptoms with this disorder.  For me, they’re mostly classified by irritability, emotional sensitivity (I burst into tears easily), the desire to lash out at those around me for daring to engage in the most ghastly of behaviors (such as chewing or swallowing loudly) 🤯 or…loud breathing (must people do it CONSTANTLY?! 😉)

For me it isn’t so much a sense of hopelessness or of impending doom, it feels more like incessant PMS (this descriptor won’t be much help to the members of my audience with a Y chromosome). 😂  I just don’t feel good!  I want to curl up in sweatpants, in the dark, and eat a pound of Doritos with a two-pound bar of Hershey’s, Special Edition, Dark Chocolate as a chaser…and wash it all down with a Big Gulp of Cherry Coke!  

I’m a midwestern girl so, naturally, I think all emotional pain should be solved with food, preferably something of the casserole variety (with main ingredients of cheese, potatoes, or cream of mushroom soup)! 🤤

*I don’t mean to make light of this–admittedly difficult–condition.  I just try not to take myself too seriously.  A little good-natured jesting helps me to keep things in perspective.  Plus they claim it takes more muscles to frown than to smile, and I’m lazy so…😉*

Embrace the dark of winter

In the other post I wrote, regarding my disorder, I discuss ways I try to mitigate the “ouch factor” by embracing the darkness.  In that post, I encourage people to seek out the peace and tranquility present in sizable amounts of dark hours, such as the peace that settles over the chilly nights when stars speckle across the dark blanket of sky that drapes across you.  

The Trekkers are fortunate to live in an area of (fairly minimal) light pollution–we can actually see the Milky Way from our backyard on clear nights!  This is even more true if we head out of town to the true darkness the Black Hills proffers.  

You never know what you’ll observe when enjoying the quiet peace of the dark evening.  Owls hooting in the distance, a shooting star, the lost Dominos driver cruising past your house multiple times searching for the correct address…😂  Also, I’ve learned, Mother Nature provides natural refrigeration for your wine if you are outside on those colds nights! 😁   

Rushing the holidays increases stress

During the fall months, when my SAD is usually at its worst, I find the rush to Christmas also increases my stress.  

Now, don’t get me wrong folks, I’m no Grinch, I LOVE Christmas.  There are no “bah humbugs!” coming from the Trekker household! Mr. Trekker’s ears are usually bleeding from the excess of Christmas music by January 1st. 😂  I LOVE the sparkling decorations; the music and movies (here’s looking at you Clark Griswald!); the food, the parties, and the time spent with family.  I even LOVE the snow (if you’re actually lucky enough to have a white Christmas these days! 😝) 

I just think there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  Since when does Christmas start in October?  There is a whole other holiday between that month and “the Jolly Old Elf” people! 😜  November is still Fall!  Leaves are still falling, the deer haven’t finished gorging on the pumpkins on our front stoop yet.  As Sally from Charlie Brown would say, “I haven’t even finished all my Halloween candy!”  Then there’s all the stress and commercialization of the Holidays…  

Why are we always in such a hurry to rush through life?  Why can’t we learn to take each day, week, month (and holiday!) as it comes?  There is a lot of busyness and stress that comes with the Holiday Season.  Can we have a little time to ramp up to it?  And seriously ya’ll, do we really want to rush to the dull, dark days of January?!  REALLY?!  

STOP RUSHING ME!!! 😜 (Straight No Chaser does a GREAT song about this, by the way! 😂) 

Days with little daylight

I don’t know about where the rest of you live, but in western South Dakota, it’s DARK dark by 5:30 for three months of the year, and during the darkest times the sun is down by 4:30. 😜 (If anyone is reading this post in even more extreme latitudes, you have my MOST SINCERE sympathy).  BUT, at least for some of that time, it is starting to get light by 6 am.  That makes dragging my sorry butt out of bed a little easier!  

The good news is, once you reach the time change in early November, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  While those short days SUCK!, it means the countdown has started.  Just a few, short weeks later–not till the day AFTER Thanksgiving!–the sparkling lights and festive music of the Christmas Season arrive in earnest to raise spirits. 

Then, once the Holiday Season is over, January’s dark days come (though they are getting a little shorter!)  Then finally it’s on to February and the sun starts staying up past 5! (My mood usually starts to improve again when we return to more normal daylight lengths.)  So, until then, get outside as much as you can (or at least sit by a window and enjoy some sun and daylight whenever possible) and don’t forget the Vitamin D3!  

I’m also a fan of fun movies, this is when you pull out the good stuff.  My personal favorites are those with car chases or anything that makes me laugh (they say it’s the best medicine!)  There is absolutely nothing wrong with 12-hour Star Wars or Netflix marathons on cold, dreary days (just open the curtains so you get some daylight!) 🌞

I’ll just be hunkering down here the next few weeks with my temporary best friends, dreaming of bright sunshine!  A little “woosah!” doesn’t hurt either (and if you haven’t seen Bad Boys 2, I strongly recommend it for a little distraction during these dark days!)  

Heads up ya’ll, the countdown to daylight has begun!

How do you cope during the darkest days of the year?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the dark days of winter? Read on for my personal experience with this condition.

 

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Therapy Lamp and Calm App Reviews

I review a light, therapy lamp and an app I use to decrease symptoms of anxiety and seasonal depression.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I struggle with general anxiety as well as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and that I prefer behavioral treatment methods over psychotropic medications.  Below are two, non-medication, products that I use regularly and that I find help greatly, a therapy lamp and the Calm app:

Light Therapy Lamp

During the fall and winter, as the daylight wanes, this tool is a must for me (these have been documented to help decrease the symptoms of SAD.)  There are several versions of this device, but this is the specific, light therapy lamp I use several months out of the year.  You have to be careful which ones you buy as they need to provide at least 10,000 lux of light, the minimum wavelength required to stimulate your brain correctly.  Unfortunately, the good ones aren’t cheap.  The old adage is true, however, you get what you pay for.  When you’re experiencing several dark, cloudy days in a row, I find this helps, significantly, so it’s worth the cost.  

This is not a perfect replacement for true sunlight, and it offers no source of Vitamin D3 (I mentioned previously that I enhance my levels with supplements in the winter months).   But, when you’re struggling in the midst of a string of several gray days–and especially when you’re driving both to work and home in the dark 😝–this device helps to brighten up your world a little bit.  

A word of warning, because of the way it stimulates your brain, it can cause sleep disturbances if it’s used too closely to bedtime.  I use it in the morning and evenings, in the kitchen, when I’m preparing meals or doing dishes.  Those are the times I notice the lack of daylight the most and these timeframes don’t affect my sleep habits.  You’re supposed to sit within a certain distance of the lamp, though I find just having it in the same room I’m in and being able to see the light provides relief.

The Calm App

Another tool I LOVE (and use throughout the year) is the Calm app, available for Android and IOS.  Several versions of the app exist, including a free, limited version–this is the one I use.  The app showcases multiple relaxing sounds (including heavy rain, a thunderstorm, waves, a sunny lake), and white noise options (such as floating clouds or deep space).  These are complemented by animated scenes that are incredibly beautiful to watch.  The paid versions also offer spoken meditation podcasts and sleep stories.  You can visit the app’s website here or search for it on the App Store.  I cannot recommend this product enough (I’ve gotten Mr. Trekker using it as well!). 😁

If you find yourself struggling with the ever-increasing darkness of the winter season, or just need help calming your mind, check out these products!

Have you ever used these tools?  Tell me about your experiences in the comments!

Did you enjoy reading this post?  Pin it!

In this post I review a light, therapy lamp and a meditation app I use to decrease symptoms of anxiety and seasonal depression.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

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†As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

 

Embrace the Dark Winter Days

I discuss my struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the tools and techniques I use to control the symptoms.

“Embrace the Darkness…”  It sounds like a title for a death metal album, doesn’t it? 😝  During the fall and winter, I struggle with a condition known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder(it’s also called “Winter Depression” or the “Winter Blues”).  It is believed, by many, to be caused by a lack of sunlight in the more extreme northern (or southern) latitudes during the winter months.  

While this disorder is a constant companion to me during the darker times of the year, I try to not let it define my life.  It’s something I have to deal with, but that doesn’t mean I have to allow it to have control over me.  I want to share my experience with others who may struggle with something similar (it’s very common) and offer some of the tools I’ve garnered to help manage this condition.

What do SAD symptoms feel like?

Day after day, the sun sets a little earlier (and rises a little later); grey clouds begin to move in causing several days in a row without sunshine (the only time of year this is, at all, an expected occurrence in the Black Hills).  The temperature cools, the first hints of frost (and occasionally, snow!) greet us as they kiss the grass blades in the morning.  The days grow shorter and the trees quieter as the songbirds start to head for warmer climates.  

Winter is coming! 

I actually like winter–in the Black Hills at least–I enjoy it as much as summer.  The cold doesn’t really bother me–as long as it stays above 10 degrees or so–and I actually prefer it over the heat of summer (you can always add more layers, you can’t take your skin off). 😝  I don’t mind the snow–especially since, in the Hills, it usually melts fairly quickly.  There’s also plenty of outdoor activities that we can only enjoy on cold, winter days. 

What I struggle with is the dark…”a suffocating, dark fog that slowly seeps in, like something out of a Stephen King movie…it makes you feel as though your chest is being compressed and you can’t take a breath…”  That’s the best way I can describe how I feel when my SAD kicks into high gear.  It makes me feel claustrophobic like the walls are closing in…

Tools to help manage Winter Depression:

Below is a list of techniques and tools I use to help mitigate the worst of my SAD symptoms.  Please understand, NONE of these is a cure.  They are simply strategies I use to empower myself and exert control over my symptoms:

Therapy Lamp:  There are several versions of this device, but this is the light, therapy lamp I use several months out of the year.  These have been documented to help decrease the symptoms of SAD.  You have to be careful which ones you buy as they need to provide at least 10,000 lux of light, the minimum wavelength required to stimulate your brain correctly.  Unfortunately, the good ones aren’t cheap. However, when you’re experiencing several dark, cloudy days, I find this helps, significantly. (To read a review I wrote on this lamp, click here.)  

Vitamin D3:  There are several different brands and strengths of this supplement available.  Many doctors (including my own) believe SAD is, at least partially, caused by Vitamin D3 deficiency.  Sunlight is the best source of this nutrient (it is different than regular Vitamin D that is found in foods like milk) and, obviously, there’s less of our warmth-emanating friend in the winter months. (My doctor calls these “sunshine pills”, some also call them “happy pills”.  Both are apt descriptors as the vitamin assists in increasing happiness and makes the world seem brighter, like sunshine). 🌞   

I’m not a huge fan of medication, but, this supplement replaces the exact thing that is lacking in your body.  This treatment, along with the therapy lamp, are what I find to be the most effective.  I usually garner the best results if I start taking it early in the fall before the deficiency becomes too great.    I usually only need to continue the regime until mid-March.  I also find essential oils to be another helpful, alternative remedy.

Journaling:  I journal, A LOT, throughout the year.  Sometimes I write pages, other times, just a few paragraphs. I find it helps to get whatever is bouncing around in my head out of there.  Then I can relax because it’s been written down! 😉  Sometimes, it also helps me to see the situation I’m stressing about in a more objective light which can make it less anxiety-inducing.

Staying busy/active:  this is a big one.  It’s SO EASY to not be as active in the winter months because it’s dark and COLD (it’s also icy, snowy, etc.)  You don’t feel like doing anything but curling up under a blanket on the couch.  That’s ok, IN MODERATION.  Too much of it just feeds into the depression, making it worse and creating a looping cycle.  If you are unable to go outside or just can’t bring yourself to face the cold, find ways to stay active around the house or at an indoor gym.  Some studies suggest that exercise can be at least as effective as medications in combating the symptoms of depression.   

Coloring:  It may sound childish, but I color.  That’s right, I’m approaching 40, and I play with a coloring book. 😁  I’m not particularly artistic, but I find coloring is relaxing and meditative as it allows me to think while keeping my hands and eyes busy, something I’ve found helps me to focus (and I’m not the only one).  

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You know you wish you had a Star Wars coloring book!  😉

Lots of self-care and patience:  Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself when you’re hurting.  This time of year can be stressful for many reasons, and the upcoming holidays can, often, exacerbate this.  Don’t be afraid to take a little downtime for yourself (again, IN MODERATION.  Isolating yourself completely can also further depressive symptoms). Also, don’t be afraid to talk with trusted people in your life (a therapist, significant other, friends, family, etc.)  It’s perfectly acceptable to admit that you’re hurting.  Sometimes, just saying the demon’s name takes away some of its power.  👊   

Allow yourself to feel the discomfort:  This is a hard one for us in today’s day and age.  We don’t like to be uncomfortable for any reason or for any length of time, if possible.  Often, with the benefits of modern medicine and technology, we can achieve that goal.  Sometimes though, it’s helpful to allow ourselves to feel the *ouch!* factor, a little bit.  I find what helps me is to accept the disorder as a part of myself, and not to run from the discomfort.  It’s something I deal with for several months out of the year, so it isn’t going away.   I find trying to run from it only leads to more angst.  I get the best results when I allow myself to feel the ache, and then use the coping techniques mentioned above as a balm.  

Embrace the darkness of the winter months… 

Every year, sometime in February, I seem to come to the same conclusion…the dark isn’t so bad.  I’m not sure if it just takes that long to beat my spirit down so that I accept it…😳😉, or if, by then, daylight is slowly starting to increase in length, so the darkness no longer seems so awful?  Or, maybe, I just finally habituate to it. 😝

One of the goals of this blog is to encourage others to embrace the small joys in life, especially those found in our daily environment. This year, I’m trying to implement that as a tool to limit my SAD symptoms early on, instead of waiting till midwinter. 😁  Our environment surrounds us with numerous examples of these “little things” if we just know where to look:  

Enjoy the winter, night sky: 

When the wind isn’t howling, winter evenings in the Black Hills can be a delight!  Crystal clear skies *crackle* with the sparkling pinpoints of the millions of stars scattered across them.  Shortly after sunset, the sky turns an incredible shade of indigo blue with a hue that is so beautiful it’s difficult to describe.  I only notice it in the colder months. This could be because I’m not usually outside at that time of day in the summer months, as the sun sets so much later.  It could also be that the sky is only that crystal clear in the winter, as it’s finally free from haze and the smoke from wildfires in surrounding areas.  It does seem that this time of year is the only time the evening sky shows the beauty of which it is truly capable.  

Appreciate the quiet neighborhood:

I love the quiet of the neighborhood as we walk the dog in the evenings (remember to exercise!)  That time of day is so peaceful, once people have finished rushing home after a long day at work and only the neighborhood deer–and an occasional dog barking behind a nearby fence–accompany us.  Noises sound different in the crisp, winter air.  They carry almost a *twang*  as they reach your ears.  The air smells different too, as it silently bites at your nostrils with every frozen breath you take.  You can almost taste the metallic smell of snow and frost.  This is also the only time of year you can hear the rustle of downed leaves underfoot. 😁

Embrace the holidays!

Whoever planned the holidays to coincide with the darkest time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere was a genius! 😁  People in our neighborhood like to decorate their homes during these seasons (maybe they all just hate the dark as much as I do). 😉  From the first of October through the middle of January, light-up ghosts, pumpkins, reindeer, and nativity scenes decorate porches and yards, which definitely help put a damper on dark thoughts.  🎅

Enjoy idyllic scenes:

When you look out across your neighborhood on cold mornings and see steam and smoke rising from furnace pipes and chimneys, it’s like a scene from a children’s picture book or a Norman Rockwell painting.  

–I also like it when a jet from the local Air Force base flies over at extremely low altitude with afterburners blazing!  (Ok, this one isn’t so tranquil, but it is pretty cool!  😳😁)

To conclude

For anyone who struggles with the frustrating condition that is SAD, I hope you are able to find unique, comforting things in your own life that bring you joy. Winter comes every year so, we may as well find a way to embrace the darkness! 

Do you struggle with SAD?  If so, tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the winter months? Read on for some tools and techniques I use to control my symptoms.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

†As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases