If you know me well, then you no doubt know that my favorite season is spring. Come April, I’m as happy as can be! The weather warms up, there’s lots of sun, and things are alive and growing. Even if it rains, the birds still chirp and the worms still come out. Just like Mother Nature, I thrive in spring.
I admit that I’ve never understood people who name fall as their favorite season! It’s mostly cool and gray, and nature begins shutting down for the winter. I find it rather depressing!
This time of year, I find myself feeling tired, and a little grumpy. And in my many years of coaching adults with ADHD, I’ve learned that I’m not alone. It seems that most of my clients slow down in fall, dreading the winter blues that they know are coming.
A psychiatrist once told me that the majority of adults with ADHD that she sees here in New York suffer from the winter blues, and a significant number suffer from full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. I’m one of them. Are you?
A few years ago, I finally (after years of recommendations) decided to try light therapy, and I bought a light therapy box. I was told to start using it no later than October, when natural light begins its noticeable decline. I was skeptical, but I held out hope that using the light therapy box would somehow make the winter more bearable. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised when it did!
That first year, I worried that I would forget to use my light therapy box, or that I wouldn’t be able to find the time to fit it into my day. Now I know from experience that making time for the light therapy box is no big deal. It takes only 10-30 minutes a day, so it’s pretty easy to find the time for it. And one of the great things about light therapy is that you can use your light therapy box while you’re doing other things—reading, working, or even watching TV. It doesn’t have to be one more thing to worry about!
Light therapy has made a real difference for me. When I’m using my light therapy box in the fall/winter, I clearly notice the following benefits:
- I click into my day a lot quicker. I used to feel “out of it” all day long in the fall and winter, and now I find it much easier to engage.
- I have more energy during the day, and fall asleep easier at night. It helps me regulate my natural sleep cycle.
- I actually get things done on those gray days, instead of slumming around and procrastinating.
- I’m happier, and more pleasant to be around. This alone makes life easier (and not just for me!)
If you’ve ever suffered from the winter blues, and certainly if you’ve ever suffered from full-blown SAD, then I urge you to consider buying a light therapy box. The SADelite Desk Lamp is what I use because it’s small and powerful. But many other brands and options have become available in the last few years. Just be sure to get yourself a light therapy box that delivers 10,000 lux, and let your doctor know that you’re using it. (Caution: If you’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, then talk to your doctor before making the decision to begin light therapy.)
In addition to light therapy, there are some other things that adults with ADHD can do to help beat the seasonal blues, including:
- Exercise every day. Exercise benefits the brain. Research has shown that ADHD, anxiety, and depression can be treated effectively with exercise.
- Eat lots of protein. Try to include ample protein (meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, nut butters) in every meal and snack. Resist the urge to overindulge in carbs. They may make you feel better while you’re eating them, but protein will help keep your energy and brain function stable in the long run.
- Get lots of sleep. Listen to your body. It’s normal to want more sleep when the days get shorter. Your brain functions better when it’s well rested.
The bottom line is this: Seasonal blues are common in adults with ADHD, but they can be prevented! Start making changes now, and you just might be able to beat those blues.