“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu
Genie* tells me she suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). She’s an elementary school music specialist as well as a professional church musician and every year, it hits her full force right after Christmas. It lessens in intensity for her as Lent progresses and Easter arrives, as the days get longer. It’s mostly under control with medication and a light box but since March 2020, she has struggled almost year-round.
Her SAD physician has recommended a few things in addition to her usual treatment which she thought might help us all. Winter has a way of pulling us down physically, and spiritually, and the weather in many regions has been brutal. I thanked her because these are simple things anyone can do, whether you have SAD or not. And some should have been part of our Pandemic self-care anyway no matter the time of year.
Get outside as much as possible. Things might be better in your area so take advantage when you are able. If things worsen again, try to get outside—and that means outside outside—several times a week even for a few minutes. Get exercise of some sort, every day if you can, preferably in the out-of-doors. Walk around the block or in a park or a forest preserve. Let the sun hit your face even if you need to wear a mask.
Genie tells me her district is again doing hybrid learning. But right after winter break, they had to return to remote, not exactly easy if you’re an elementary school music specialist. She’s been doing Alexander Technique breathing or yoga breathing, as her doctor has suggested, every day she is not able to go to school or get outside. Her physician told her singing, the physical act of singing, should also help. She laughed when he suggested that because singing is her job. He also told her to take a few minutes every day to purposefully appreciate the beauty around her. Good and simple advice for all of us to try.
During the last few weeks, I’ve been trying a few of the ideas Genie has shared. Before the Pandemic, I often wrote on my laptop, did rehearsal planning, or collated music and folders on the large table in front of my kitchen window during the afternoon. But I did not do so purposefully. I would occasionally look up and notice the seasons pass or a squirrel trying to steal food from the “squirrel-proof” bird feeder or see the sunset. My breath would hitch at the beauty of a sunset, or I would laugh at the determination of the squirrels but the next day, I might not notice, determined to finish my tasks.
All that has changed, and I try to find beauty wherever I can. Each afternoon, I gaze out of my large kitchen window for a few minutes. Even as I collate music folders or work on my blog, I stop for a minute or two to see the beauty outside. It’s a simple thing to do but it has made me feel better, closer to nature, as I take stock of my garden this winter or the state of the weather here in suburban Chicago. I note the position of the sun, the color of the sky and am reassured that the world is still turning. Every afternoon, it stays lighter a bit longer, noticeably so, and that has lifted my spirits.
Something I’ve noticed more than any other are the sun and the sunsets. The brightness of the sun reflecting off the snow—and we’ve had PLENTY of snow here in Chicago—and the colors of the sunsets. In the late afternoon, the sun is incredibly bright and that cheers me up. The pinks and oranges and purples, and the black silhouettes of the trees against the colors, fills me with hope. Sunsets are a bit later each day and that seems to lift my spirits too.
In a few weeks, my chamber choir will begin our spring rehearsal/concert cycle. As the dark days of winter dwindle, the prospect of making music with some of my favorite people beckons. And gives me something to look forward to as the days get longer and lighter. I wish for you light and hope and something to look forward to as February trudges on toward March and spring.