Self-Care Tips for Conscious Entrepreneurs with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Entrepreneurship often feels like the most epic of rollercoaster rides, filled with high highs, but also some low lows, and surprises at every turn. Add to that being a CONSCIOUS entrepreneur, aiming to make a positive impact on people and the planet that goes far beyond the core of your business, and you’ve already got plenty on your plate.

For some of us, however, the seasons can also have a strong impact on our overall energy level and mental well-being, making that delicate entrepreneurial mindset balance even harder to maintain.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Often called “seasonal depression” or “winter blues”, SAD is a very real form of depression related to seasonal changes. According to The Mayo Clinic, “If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. These symptoms often resolve during the spring and summer months. Less often, SAD causes depression in the spring or early summer and resolves during the fall or winter months.”

Fall and Winter SAD symptoms most often include:

  • Feeling listless, sad or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Oversleeping
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates, and weight gain

Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.

– Yoko Ono

What can we do to help reduce the impact of SAD on our lives & well-being?

First and foremost, as The Mayo Clinic suggests, “don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own”. Also, talk about what and how you’re feeling with your doctor or therapist. Yes, SAD is a very real form of depression, but there could also be something else going on. A qualified medical professional can also help you put in place an action plan best suited to your unique needs, seasonally or year-round. Psychotherapy and/or medication are two key tools that can help with SAD and other forms of depression.

Here are some additional self-care tips that have helped me and will hopefully make the Fall and Winter months easier on you as well:

  • Inner-exploration: Are there specific elements that trigger your SAD more than others? For me, for instance, lack of light/sunshine and not socializing as much as during the warmer months (#HibernationMode) really get to me. Knowing what affects you the most can help you focus your efforts in the right place. Journaling can be a helpful habit to keep track of how you’re feeling. Putting negative feelings into words can also help lessen their burden.
  • Shifting your mindset: Easier said than done, I know, but since I’ve started thinking about the seasons in conjunction with the natural world, I’ve started to make peace with Autumn and Winter. ? Picturing Autumn as the season of harvests, and a time to start sewing some of the seeds that will come out in Spring paints a more joyful mental picture than thinking about shorter, gray, rainy, windy days. While viewing Winter as a time for the world and all its inhabitants to slow down, rest, take care of themselves and their inner world to prepare for the expansion of Spring can make those long, dark months a little lighter.
  • Go outside: Spending time outdoors, especially during daylight, can help boost your serotonin and thus your mood and energy. Go for a walk in a park, explore a new neighborhood, head to a nearby forest to pick mushrooms, eat lunch outside on a sunny day, head to the nearest sea or lake for a stroll… Bonus points for going somewhere you’ve never been to before, as you’re more likely to be fully present in the moment and observing your surroundings.
  • Get your daily dose of sun/light: When I can, I set my alarm clock to wake up when the sun rises and try to plan my day so I can be near windows and go outside while there’s light. You may also consider investing in a light therapy lamp (or other forms of phototherapy). VeryWellMind wrote a great recap about light therapy if you’re curious to know more.
  • Socialize: Especially if you live alone and/or work from home, making plans to interact with others can really help with your seasonal depression. If, like me, your social group has a tendency to hibernate as soon as the sweaters come out, this could be a great time to go to local networking events or get togethers and meet new people. I like to check MeetUp, my local Internations and Girl Gone International chapters, as well as Facebook groups & events to see what’s going on around me.
  • Try new activities: I set myself a goal to try 1 new thing each month in 2022 and it has been a delightful adventure! From axe throwing to driving a boat, learning to drive stick shift to taking a porcelain class (<- this weekend), pushing myself out of my comfort zone has been a source of great joy (and also some cold sweats when it comes to driving stick ? but it’s worth it!). Is there something you’ve been tempted to try but never dared to? Now could be a great time to take that leap and give it a go! Whether it’s a calming activity, a sporty/outdoorsy one, or even something artistic – it could be just the serotonin boost you needed.
  • Adapt your living space: Move over Spring cleaning, I’ve decided Autumn was going to be my time to rearrange things in my house this year. The focus? Making each space as bright/luminous and joyful as possible. Some things you can consider: positioning furniture so you can enjoy daylight as much as possible from your windows, adding more or new artwork around you, adding pops of greenery with plants or bursts of color with bright throws and pillows in your living spaces and bedding in your room.
  • Get your body moving: I’m not the sportiest human (*understatement*), but signing up for Yoga and Pilates classes this year is helping me get out of the house, socialize AND exercise, while having fun. Whether you run, walk, bike, dance, chase your kids around, indoors or outside… the main idea is to find a way to be active at least 20 minutes per day. My bonus tip? Find an activity that’s fun instead of tedious, a treat for you and your body! You deserve it!
  • Get enough quality sleep: This is a tough one for me but taking melatonin and/or CBD drops has helped when I’m going through phases of insomnia, as does listening to meditation podcasts (I listed my favorites here). I’ve also shifted my alarm time to wake up when the sun rises because, personally, opening the blinds to darkness tank my mood instantly. If that’s not an option for you, maybe investing in a daylight-simulating alarm clock could help, or developing an updated cosy morning routine.
  • Eat well: Much like the tips above, this one holds true all year but it can be particularly difficult to stay motivated to eat regular, healthy meals when SAD kicks in. I personally try to lean into trying yummy recipes with seasonal veggies (Pinterest is a great spot for inspiration – you can check out my favorite vegetarian pins here as well as some artsy food inspiration because making an Oscar the Grouch spinach quiche for Halloween during quarantine in 2020 brought me so much joy that ‘playing with my food’ is now a key part of my mood-boosting toolkit).
  • Lean into what brings you joy: Treat yourself to whatever make you smile and leaves you feeling better. Bonus points for people and things that make you laugh. Whether it’s cute animal videos or a cheesy show, laughter is a powerful medicine indeed!

Taking care of your own mental and physical health is essential. The key is to find out what you need, verbalize that need to the right people and identify solutions that work for you. The clearer your action plan is, ahead of time, the easier it will be to implement on those days when everything feels extra heavy and hard.

“You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have the right to be here.”

– Max Ehrmann, Desiderata

If part of what has you feeling overwhelmed is your long to-do list, it might be time to consider outsourcing part of it to an expert who shares your values and your vision. If it’s your social media strategy, content, engagement or ads you need help with, perhaps I can be of assistance.

If you’re looking for branding, graphic or web design, copywriting or administrative help, I also know some wonderful ecopreneurs who can help. Just send me an email with what you’re looking for and I’ll put you in touch.