30 May 2023 ///

The Sunflower’s Guide to Manoeuvring Seasonal Depression

Oh for goodness sake, konje we have to do this every year? *The deepest sigh imaginable… like ever* 

The autumn leaves are falling and so has the high from our beloved sizzling tropical summertime. South African summers, there ain’t nothing like it huh? Except this was not just any summer this was a summer that ushered us into a once unimaginable post-pandemic euphoria filled with steamy piano nights, mornings AND afternoons – listen, a fucken feast. Masks off, smiles wide open echoing through the concrete jungle what feels like decades worth of withheld laughter. A whole lot of head nods nje everywhere you go – a vote of confidence, almost as if saying ‘hey man look at us, look at how far we made it heck I think we can go get it’ whatever it meant to you. We’re together for real, and life is back on track. This summer, we’ve all been like a field of beaming sunflowers, just cheering each other on – pointing each other to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Daniel Hansen, Unsplash.

Arno Smit, Unsplash.

Kodwa ke now here we are, location today-fontein and what was once unsolicited whistles and howls for the sidewalk – read catwalk – tailing my thigh high mini has now turned to well, just straight maltreatment and potential pneumonia from mother nature. She can be a true disciplinarian if you ask me. I couldn’t help but notice that as the temperature continues to drop so does my vibrant personality, like every damn year. A mirror to my own surroundings, I just turn…grey. I first noticed this with the occasional rainy day, you know the drill. Trying to find any and every excuse not to leave the house but then I peeped my winters and yoh sana! Oh they be wintering alright! Kubi-bi-bi-bi to say the least. For instance, during this time, my temper and patience can be shorter than usual. Let’s just say I go on what my unbelievably accepting friends know as the ‘I’m cutting you off!’ spree many of which I’ve had to shamefully retract – some with no positive results because consequences, right? The insecurities really are peaking; between the dry skin and hair irritation, pigment discolouration, weight influx and those marketing heifers paired with an unhealthy hyperfocus on my intrusive 9pm – 3am thoughts? Hell even I wouldn’t want to be around me. In this state, maybe they’re the ones who should cut me off? 

If you or anyone you know is related to any of the above then you could potentially have what academics callSeasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)’ also known as ‘Seasonal Depression’. Other people might not get it but I do, the anticipation of what feels like a recurring level 4 lockdown year after year after year? It’s not for us sunflowers, , us the ‘let’s go chase the sunset!’ ass beings. We wilt at the mere thought of darkness and anticipate dawn like a toddler way past their cadbury limit. If only someone could find a way to bottle that golden hour feeling for these rainy days? Oh, we’d actually be out by the thousands trying to get some, but no one’s cracked the code let alone made affordable and effective therapy available to all.

Ello, Unsplash.

Taisiia Shestopal, Unsplash.

So we try each in our own unique and self-deprecating ways to manufacture a feeling like no other. I’m here to tell you that a 750ml wine bottle ain’t cutting close for this case. Fake dopamine is like a synthetic wig. It’s good at first – I mean you can really get away with it – then suddenly it’s just the pits! So here are a few scientifically approved and totally doable ways for manoeuvering mother nature’s cold shoulder; 

Get some decent rest! 8 hours; nothing more or less! – Now that the whole daylight, night time situation is all jacked up – thanks winter! – you need to adjust your sleep patterns staying up ‘till 3am contemplating your social standing is not doing you or your eye bags any good and sleeping in late is just adding to the SADness. 

Be mindful how you use your sunless energy dear sunflower gang! – Okay this is for my over-commiters, the mbokodos and superheroes of the community. Stop! Just stop! 

Don’t let it get too messy chile – You know how misery likes company even in the form of a piled up chair filled with clothes or a sink filled with dirty dishes, or unwashed hair…you get the point. As tiring as it may be, especially during this time, there’s nothing more refreshing than a decluttered space to match your peaceful mind. I know it will make a world of a difference than having to look at that mess every time you get up. 

Get outside in nature–  like literally hug a tree or somebody consenting. That hug in a mug isn’t gonna give you the warmth you truly crave. Get that Vitamin D by power by force. Oh she’s out there somewhere. 

Eat a balanced diet  – We just spoke about Vitamin D and considering there’s less of it during the winter simply means you’re gonna need to eat more of it. 

Exercise regularly, or at least stretch – You and your smartphone are well aware that you’re no longer clocking your average daily step rate. Move that bowdy! 

Track your daily mood and activities – journal, journal ,journal. Don’t care if it’s via voice recordings, notes on your phone or a good ol’ notebook and pen. Get it out there, don’t let your thoughts swim around aimlessly too long.

Living with seasonal depression ain’t easy, but a little self-care, patience and a whole lotta loving can go a long way. Try to focus on the solutions to our unavoidable frenemy – winter. Questions like ‘what can I do to make myself smile today?’ but  ask yourself that, everyday.  Along with my ‘savvy how-to-winter playbook’ above, I rate we’re good to go. Treat yourself softly when the weather seems harsh, dear sunflower. Now granted these aren’t a substitute for actual medicinal treatment and if the trying ain’t helped then there ain’t no shame in seeking the support of a qualified  mental health professional who’ll hook you up with something specific to your unique self. After all, we’re just trying to see you bloom sunny! 

And remember, only the sturdiest stems that hold the tallest sunflowers.

Written by: Thandiwe Magwaza​

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