Other than forcing the clouds to part and let through that brilliant beautiful sunlight...an art I haven't perfected yet...my options in dealing with SAD are unlimited. However, I think consistency is pretty important in my life. So I tried to stick with a few simple rules this winter to survive.
I faltered with steps 4 and 5 but they did make an impact so when I found I was falling down a bit I'd push myself to improve using these two.
Step 4: Sleep
My ideal amount of sleep seems to be 8.5 hours. That's a lot I know but it seems ideal for me. In the summer, it's not a big deal if I only get 7 or 7.5 or even 6. The sun wakes me up the next morning and I'm pretty chipper.
In the winter, however, I don't have that assistance and it's easy for me to fall into a dark mood that I can't shake all day long. Those days I feel like I'm always on the verge of tears....I'm constantly trying to sort out what is wrong. I'll actually ask myself 10 - 15 times a day "what's wrong?" And the only answer is, "I feel sad."
So I made an early bedtime the rule rather than the exception this past winter. It was rare for me to see 11:00pm from October - April. I'd try to get ready for bed early so I could turn out the lights just after 10. This didn't guarantee a good mood the following day, but it did ensure I wasn't overtired as well as sad.
Step 5: No Sugar
Oh boy was this ever a tough one to take on and I fully admit that I fell of this wagon more often than rode it. However, when I got down I knew that this was one thing I could change that would make a big impact within a few days. When I cut out sugar, I left behind the false ups and downs of everyday existence. Life is already full of emotional tides, why add chemical ones on top of them?
Now I wasn't hard core about it. I didn't count the sugars in my morning granola and yogurt or fruit. What I cut out was all cookies, cakes, mints, sweets, doughnuts, muffins....that kind of thing. I had a really good run in October/November where I was sugar free for about 6 weeks. Then I fell off the wagon over the Christmas season. After that I was on or off given how I felt.
Ultimately I knew that if I was feeling low, cutting out sugar for a week would help me feel better. So I relied on this step as a fail safe when the other things weren't working.
And that's how I survived my SAD winter 2009/10. I plan to tackle it similarly next year. Take that winter!