Often called the winter blues, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a subtype of major depressive disorder, explains licensed psychotherapist Tandrea Tarver-Brooks. It occurs when seasonal shifts cause mood swings and affect a person’s ability to function. Although the most prominent cases appear in the colder months, seasonal depression can occur at any time of the year, Tarver-Brooks said.
Meanwhile, many people find holiday gatherings and customs cause more grief than comfort. Holidays, anniversaries and birthdays act as memories frozen in time and can worsen symptoms of grief by increasing feelings of insecurity and isolation, Tarver-Brooks said. single. When grief coexists with SAD symptoms, an individual’s sadness can also flare up again, making it much more difficult to complete daily tasks and meet basic needs. .
As a somatic practitioner who focuses primarily on breathing techniques, I have helped thousands of people, from Fortune 100 executives to children in juvenile detention centers. I’ve found that certain somatic techniques can help with the emotions that are emerging in the body when symptoms of grief and seasonal depression intertwine. .
What is somatic practice? This is a tool to address the physical manifestations of emotional states in the body. Here are three things I highly recommend to create more moments of calm and groundedness as you approach each day, one day at a time.
Three strategies you can use as you overcome seasonal sadness and depression
1. Morning ocean breath
Starting the day with gentle, relaxing breaths can help reduce overthinking. The improved mind-body connection can help encourage completion of daily habits that become more difficult when you experience depression and grief, like making your bed, bathing, or brushing your teeth.
Ocean breathing is a beginner-friendly breathing style that sounds just like it sounds. To do this, start with your mouth wide open.
Inhale through your mouth slowly, evoking a prolonged breath. Feel your chest and diaphragm rise as you inhale. Then exhale through your mouth, feeling your chest hug your belly as you empty your lungs.
If you feel comfortable doing so, you can close your eyes and position your body lying or sitting for the duration of the practice. Start with a time that feels achievable, whether it’s one minute, five minutes or 10 minutes.
Know that it’s normal for tasks and to-dos to pop into your head as you begin to breathe. Gently let your mind do its work (thinking) and compassionately bring your focus to your breathing.
2. Intentionally breathe through your nose during low-impact walking
Walking can be a great tool to feel more present in your body when processing difficult emotions. Combining slow walking with intentional breathing through your nose is a practice that will help create more space in your mind and the situations your mind wants to handle, by focusing your attention. Instead of moving your mind, inhale and exhale more deeply.
While walking, start paying attention to your regular breathing. Extend your inhalation and exhalation by a few seconds beyond what would occur naturally. Notice how your body feels as you slow down and inhale more deeply and lengthen your exhale with more intention.
3. Cultivate self-touch
Touch can evoke feelings of safety and comfort in the brain.
If a specific area of the body feels tense or uncomfortable, gently rub that area in a circular motion (clockwise then counterclockwise). Allow your body to sink into whatever surface is supporting you while allowing tension in your face, shoulders, and lower body to dissipate.
To further evoke feelings of security, wrap a blanket around yourself after doing this exercise or cover yourself with a weighted blanket.
Note: Grief can manifest itself differently on each person’s body, but usually manifests in the chest area (heart cavity) and stomach area.
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