Strategies for SAD

SAD. I haz it. Well, I have had it, anyway. After a few decades of dreadful winters in Philly, Ohio, and Boston, I lived in Arizona for 10 years, and not by accident. Longer days and plenty of sunshine are good for me. So my recent relocation to Portland, OR, was a little scary. I love the city, but in winter, the sun isn’t up until 7:30, and it’s pretty well dark around 5. When it is daytime, it’s often pretty gray. I’m not dealing with any active symptoms now, but I know I have this tendency. Wellness isn’t something you can put off until you are unwell. What do I need to keep myself healthy, knowing that darkness and indoors are my arch nemeses? 

  • Science says it’s pretty likely that light therapy is beneficial. I got this for Christmas (thanks Amy!!) and I use it for 20 minutes every morning, while it’s still dark outside (dude, until like 7:30). I drink coffee, do my brief journaling, plan my goals and schedule for the day, and do any other lingering desk chores while I sit by the light.
  • I get outside. The light still works (remember when your mom said you can still get a sunburn when it’s cloudy?), but so does fresh air and moving your body. Sometimes it’s as simple as having the right gear to make the outdoors friendlier. Remember, there’s no such thing as bad weather— only insufficient gear. (See my previous post about running).
  • I’m keeping up good relationships with my family and friends in San Diego and Tucson. Mid-winter escape route! People aren’t like solar cells, but, well, experience suggests that a good break somewhere sunny can carry me through.
  • I remind myself to go out— both for exercise and for social time. Does it always sound great? No. Is it usually great? Yes. 
  • I eat well. Of course it’s tempting to face-plant into a bowl of mac and cheese when it’s dark, damp and cold. I’m not above it. But if most of my plate is vegetables, I feel better. And if I feel better, I’m better at doing the rest of the stuff on this list.

What else helps you sun-lovers out there with a long winter?

It’s January. Are you running?

It’s January, and I just moved from Tucson to Portland, OR. Winter is peak running weather in Tucson— sunny in the daytime, and cool in the mornings and evenings. In Portland, it’s. . . dark. From 4:30 PM until 7:30 AM. And wet. I’ll treadmill it if necessary, but it sucks the joy from my life. So what’s a girl to do? Adapt. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  1. Gear. Since Ragnar last year, I haven’t had much use for my reflective vest  but now I do. I also needed a better headlamp. Now I’m visible, and I can see. Safety? Check. Add that to toasty tops and tights and something to keep my ears warm, and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m still figuring out which shoes are best for slick sidewalks (any advice??), but I’ve got muddy trails covered. 
  2. Adjust expectations. Yes, I can run in the dark. In the rain. I won’t melt. The rain is often kind of misty and drizzly— almost pleasant, in a way. Portlanders aren’t phased the way Tucsonans are— I used to joke that people stayed home if it looked a little cloudy. Here? Bring it on. People are out there. I also thought it would suck running before it’s light out, remembering pre-dawn runs of yore before early hospital shifts. But 6 AM is way better than 4:45, even if it’s dark. 
  3. Learn to love the mud. Pippi, Max and I ran on some Forrest Park trails last weekend and we had a blast— it was sloppy, but who cares? There’s a distinct joy in getting dirty. Own it.
  4. Back up plans and cross-training. Some days it’s too nasty. A gym membership was in order— so I got one. I can use the treadmill, sure, but maybe a functional training class (kettlebells! boxes! bodyweight!), a rowing workout, or some cycling, too. Cross-training has its own set of benefits that I’m starting to enjoy, like feeling stronger on hills.
when you gotta, you gotta.

What other tips to you have for me to help me run all winter long?