Do you start feeling a little funky in the fall? And by the time winter arrives are you downright depressed? Does your energy level disappear during the dark and you feel sluggish sans sun? Perhaps, you like me, have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to changing seasons.
Now I must be honest and tell you no physician actually has diagnosed me with this malady, but I’m fairly certain I have it. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up a California girl living an hour from the beach, but I LOVE the sun (yes, I used to lather myself with cocoa butter to get a better tan!) I do know that having a family history of SAD is a risk factor for relatives being diagnosed and I remember my mother often remarking: “If I didn’t know better, I would worship the sun!”
I start feeling anxious in the fall because I know what season is coming next. As others are enjoying carving pumpkins and autumn leaves, I’m thinking: “I don’t know if I can get through another winter!”
According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD symptoms include: loss of interest in once enjoyable activities, problems sleeping, changes in appetite/weight, feeling sluggish, difficult concentrating, lack of energy and at its worst, feeling hopeless, guilty and even suicidal. (Read more at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651)
Thankfully mine is a milder version and I’m able to slog through these darker months. But I definitely rejoiced the day after the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21) because I knew I had made it through the year’s shortest day (5 hours and 23 minutes less sunlight than the Summer Solstice). And because the next day would have 1 MORE SECOND OF SUNSHINE! And then every day after that would have a a little more light! I even texted my good friend Pat, another SAD sufferer, and congratulated her for making it through the shortest day, although she admittedly was busy lighting 20 candles in her living room trying to light up her life!
Obviously I’m not a doctor (although I do love pretending I am and diagnosing myself and others), so if you think you might have SAD, you should seek professional advice. But one of the things that really helps me is “light therapy.” I don’t actually have one of those fancy, electric “phototherapy” lights, but I try expose myself to as much sunshine as possible. If the sun is out and it’s not too freezing, I walk outside for my dose of Vitamin D. If we go to a restaurant for lunch, I choose a seat by the window where the sun is in my face.
And in the mornings, I position myself at the dining room table near an eastern-facing picture window and let the rays pour on me as I read my Bible and drink my tea. I don’t bow my head or close my eyes to pray–I talk out loud to my Heavenly Father with my face lifted to the warm light.
And sometimes He gives me a special message from His Word, like the verse I read one recent dreary winter morning:
“How happy are this who have learned how to praise You; those who journey through life by the light of Your face.” (Psalm 89:15, The Voice Bible)
Yes, LORD, that’s how I want to journey through life–and especially through my dark days. I want my greatest source of direction and comfort and peace to be the light of Your face.
Will you join me in praising God and walking through your dark days–whether they be literal or figurative–by the light of His face? Will you commit to putting yourself in places where His light can touch you? Worshipping Him with a nearby congregation. Reading His Word with an open heart and mind. Singing or listening to praise music. And asking Christ-followers to pray for and with you.
And if your dark days are incredibly bleak because you or someone you love is facing a medically incurable illness, please remember the Isaiah 9:2 promise of the coming Messiah: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light–a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.”
Jesus is that light for the world. You can find His light, whoever you are, wherever you are and whatever darkness you face. The song below is my prayer of blessing for you today.
(If the music video doesn’t load, use this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEqclQGD7rs)