Wednesday, 20 November 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Coping with the (literally) darker days; Nov 4. 2019

‘Focussing on and finding joy in the changing seasons’

Our discussion looked at the impact of the shorter and darker days on mental health and wellbeing.

Naz started this discussion by describing how going through a traumatic experience that impacts upon hope and the future can magnify the heavy and dark side of the dark and short days, and she was curious about how we coped with the autumnal changes and the impact that they can have on our emotional well-being.

Many of us agreed that this time of year can affect how we feel. The changing season can cause a general reduction in energy, lowering of mood, or even depression. Getting up and going to work in the dark, having to deal with the cold and damp and, for some of us, the added trauma of going through active treatment, can have a negative impact on us. We spoke about the lethargy that we can feel at the darkness, and the pain that the cold and damp can cause, making mobility difficult. Some also mentioned that this time of year coincides with the anniversary of diagnosis – a time that many members already find difficult.

Several practical solutions were suggested, with getting outside for a walk in the daylight and making the most of the fresh air being the most popular suggestion. Some members who work in an indoor environment found it particularly useful to arrange a lunchtime walk with colleagues so they had the chance to be exposed to daylight. Others use Lumie or SAD lamps to support their well-being, with differing success rates. Those members with dogs were grateful that they were forced to go outside whatever the weather, and found that once wrapped up against the elements they actually enjoyed getting out there in the weather.

As the discussion progressed, some other ways that help us cope with the changes to the season were shared. Many of us found that we embraced the shorter days and the darkness, making our homes feel cosy with sparkly lights and candles, and we enjoyed being able to snuggle under sofa blankets and have an excuse to watch TV, read or complete craft activities, accompanied by our favourite warming comfort food and hot drinks.

Focusing on and finding joy in the changing seasons and the different celebrations such as Christmas was also discussed and the way in which the ‘lights and sparkle of christmas’ helped to brighten moods, maybe because it gave notice that the days would start to get longer soon and the seasons were on the turn again.

Maybe the answer is reframing what we see, one member spoke about ‘falling in love’ with autumn and seeing the changes as positive, the dark nights drawing in giving excuses to hibernate and feel warm and content rather than sad. Another member shared that they had a picture that had changed the way they thought about grey skies, seeing them as silver instead of grey and being able to ‘see and feel the light behind them’.

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