You’ve been writing for the whole year. You spent the majority of your mornings or evenings banging on the keyboard or writing in your notebook and you are so close to the end of your story.
Then winter comes and it hits you with that writer’s block. But it’s not just any old writer’s block… it’s writer’s block with depression. The motivation you used to have to write slowly pulls away from you as you open your notebook or turn on your computer, and you just feel terrible. Thoughts about your story turn negative and all you want to do is curl up and binge-watch for days.
How did you get this way?
“Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. 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.” – Mayo Clinic
If you’re the early risers or late night writers, you’ll probably find that you’re writing in the dark now. You might have your tiny desk lamp on to help you write, but it’s not the same as the sunlight you get during the spring/summer months. It’s also harder for some to get out of bed if the sun hasn’t even woken up yet.
Your motivation goes away and you feel guilty about it. It slowly snowballs into depression.
So here are 8 ways to help combat SAD:
There are many treatments you can get to help combat SAD. First, going to the doctors can help kickstart the right treatment — and it’s not always pills. Your doctor knows what can work with you.
A lightbox that emits a bright light mimicking the kind of light you’d get outside. You sit beside the light for a small period of time while you write. You have to find a time of the day where you’ll consistently do it. So if you write at the same time every morning, that would be a good time to turn it on. It can help change the brain chemicals that are affecting your mood. There’s a ton of lightboxes out there and it helps to consult with a doctor to find the right kind. Some claim they do the job, but their light isn’t strong enough and could potentially harm you.
- There are side effects to using light therapy: Eyestrain. Headache, Nausea, Irritability or agitation, Mania, euphoria, hyperactivity or agitation associated with bipolar disorder
- You can minimize these effects by shortening the time in front of the light, moving the box away from you, or changing the time of day when you use the lightbox.
A psychiatrist might prescribe serotonin reuptake inhibitors or monoamine oxidase inhibitors to help balance the brain chemicals. If this is recommended to you, then you might need to start it before the season starts to help combat it before the depression hits. Pharmaceuticals can work, but it depends on the body. People react to antidepressants differently so it might take a while before you find the right one for you. You and your doctor should work closely to make sure you get the right dosage and the right kind of pill.
Another useful tool to help you discover what’s causing you to feel this way and how to change your negative thoughts and cope. They do this with cognitive behavior therapy.
Cannabidiol or CBD
CBD is a natural chemical compound found in hemp. Sources say that using hemp-derived cannabidiol or CBD can help treat
- You take the time to do some yoga, meditate, or find other relaxation techniques.
Listening to music, reading a book, curling up and watching a movie… There’s a reason why some of these fall under therapy.
- Music Therapy According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy has been documented to reduce stress, improve self-esteem, decrease anxiety and increase motivation.
- Bibliotherapy: As stated in the article “Depression Doing the Thinking” written in Psychology Today, “One of the most powerful actions you can take in combating depression is to understand how critical the quality of your thinking is to maintaining and even intensifying your depression—and that the quickest way to change how you feel is to change how you think.” Reading a book can help change your mindset and move you in the direction towards positive thinking.
Selfhelpwriting books are great to read for those who are still learning the craft or needing some extra guidance as you’re writing your next novel.
Let the daylight in
Sometimes just opening the blinds more or finding areas where the sun hits the room and sitting at that spot might help you.
Are your blinds closed during the day? Open them! Let the light in. Even if it’s a cloudy, snowy day, normally there’s still some light during the day. It’s better than sitting in your dark office with a tiny desk lamp.
Do you find you are sitting at home more because of the cold weather? Can’t afford a gym membership?
- Go up and down the stairs several times a day
- Go for a walk when the weather is unseasonably warm
- Or instead of letting your dog out in the backyard, go for a short walk around the neighborhood
Have a family? Do a family fun activity! Schedule some time in your day to make sure you’re doing something fun with yourself or family outside or in
- Game nights: Do you love board games? Schedule a game night with your family or friends! A night off from forcing yourself to write can do you some good.
- Walk in the park: Live near a park? Taking a walk in the park can be super relaxing! Especially if the weather is extremely nice out for winter.
- Movie nights: No one likes to be stuck outside in the cold, so movie nights are perfect for when you want to do something, but not have to go outside. Pop that popcorn and watch a great film. Sometimes it might spark inspiration for your own story.
- Friends’ night out: Going out with your friends or just hanging out at your friend’s house can be a great way to energize your mind and body.
- Attending a Paint Night can be another fun activity to do on your own or with a close friend.
Make sure you are sleeping well and plenty. Sometimes the shorter days might mess up your sleeping schedule (or if you get sick) so try to make sure that you set a time for you to wind down and go to sleep so that when you wake up in the morning you’re getting the right amount of hours in. Try not to schedule your writing time when you should be sleeping. And if that’s the only time you can write, make sure to give yourself some time to rest throughout the week
- If you’re having trouble sleeping because of insomnia, talk with your doctor to see if Melatonin supplement could work for you. Melatonin supplements have a HUGE list of side effects so this isn’t something to be taken without a doctor’s approval.
- A more natural approach could be done by taking CBD or drinking “sleepytime” tea aka Chamomile.
Socializing with friends, family, neighbors, could help. Even if it’s just for a quick hello. Being able to talk with someone can help engage your mind and get your creative juices flowing.
- If you’re new to your town: Meetup.com is a great resource to find other like-minded individuals or join local Facebook groups to find out when they’re having an event you can attend! Sometimes it’s good to step out of your comfort zone, you might even meet some great people who’ll turn into your best friends.
- Your favorite person isn’t nearby? Video call them! Set up a time when you can chat and have a conversation like you’re in the same room.
- Tell your friends and family if you need help. Sometimes people don’t see the mood changes or they’re not seeing your struggles. It’s okay to let them know that you are feeling this way and asking for help is in no way saying you’re weak.
Of course, know your body, your limitations and what works for you. If you have mobility issues, yoga might be difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it! Just make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk of injury to make you feel better. You’ll end up feeling worse!
Pick the right treatments and coping mechanisms that work for you and always consult your doctor before trying or taking any OTC medications.
Take a deep breath! Winter will be over before you know it and you’ll be back to your regular writing self in no time.
About the Author
Emi Sano is a freelance writer and blogger with her writing blog http://writingcreatingmagic.com. She graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a Film and Animation degree in May 2014 with an emphasis in screenwriting. A few of her screenplays have placed semifinalist and finalist in different screenwriting competitions from 2014-2018. Emi returned to her fiction writing roots and is working on publishing her first young adult novella, “We Don’t Talk About That” and short story anthology “Voices” in the next year.