Sunday Stills: #Light the Night

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”

Ann Frank

Depending on where you live geographically, the holidays invoke a variety of emotions and feelings. Some of us enjoy a white Christmas or festive winter holiday while others are celebrating the holidays in the warmth of full summer. Not only are the holidays a source of wonder and joy as we look forward to the celebrations with family and friends, but also a source of anxiety and even depression for some folks.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

Desmond Tutu

A Little SAD

I am known to suffer from mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, a temporary condition caused by lack of sunlight. I know…I purposely moved north from sunnier northern California, but I still had bouts of SAD while living there. But now that I recognize the symptoms of depression, I’m better prepared and can feel it coming on. I wrote about my experiences with SAD in this post.

Luckily, during the daylight hours, we see the sun peeking out and that is when I try to get outside for a few moments and let that light flood my eyes which stimulates the pituitary gland to change the brain’s chemicals linked to mood.

All that said, in the northern hemisphere, as days continue to shorten and nights lengthen, most of us look for ways to light up the night.

This is a close-up of my outdoor trees all lit up, backdropped against the actual trees in the distance, and the two trees in the snow.

As this is my second Christmas/winter here in the Spokane, Washington area, I have plenty to look forward to which helps keep things interesting and fun! But I will have to be ready when the February doldrums strike!

Lighting with Holiday and Winter Decor

Another way I can ward off the effects of seasonal affective disorder is to decorate the interior of my home. Once Christmas decor is put away, I will have various winter scenes and white florals around my home. Decorating is a fun leisure activity and brings me joy. In our new home, we have four transom windows (typically found above entry doors). Three are situated in our main bedroom and bring in more light. These areas make a surprisingly interesting way to display decor. Here is my current holiday decor over our front door.

transom light decor

I had random decorations to use and these stained glass tealight candle holders allow the light to come through.

Just this Thursday, it snowed most of the day, snarling traffic and closing some outdoor events in Spokane. I stayed home and took pictures! This is how I light the night in the front yard. I’m still amazed at how much light my camera lens grabs, especially with the snow reflecting the light. There is something quite serene in seeing winter snow lit up at night.

Lighting the night from within and outdoors

Many of you asked more about my holiday decorations. I managed to take a video from my phone and save it to YouTube (thanks, Hugh, for the suggestion)! Welcome to Christmas at my house!

Lighting the Night

The winter solstice is December 21, marking the northern hemisphere’s shortest day of the year. The good news is now we will gain one minute a day of sunlight until June! Meanwhile, the moon lights the night!

“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.”

Richard Evans

A few more ways to light the night:

Photo Challenges this Week

Each week I am inspired by my fellow bloggers’ photo challenges. I find it fun to incorporate these into my Sunday Stills weekly themes.

Marsha’s Writers Quotes Wednesday: Candles or Lights
Cee’s Flower of the Day
Johnbo’s CellPic Sunday
Jude’s Life in Color: Kaleidoscope
Lens-Artists: Serene

Sunday Stills Photo Challenge Reminders

Sunday Stills weekly challenge is easy to join. You have until December 23 to share and link your post to this one.

  • Please create a new post for the theme or link a recent one.
  • Tag your post “Sunday Stills.”
  • Title your blog post a little differently than mine.
  • Don’t forget to create a pingback to this post so that other participants can read your post. I also recommend adding your post’s URL into the comments.
  • Entries for this theme can be posted all week.

Please share your links by Dec 23 if you can as I am going on a break until January 9th. I would like to include your links in the current post while people are still reading rather than waiting for the January 9th post. However, I will include any in that post that miss the deadline. I might hop in for the January “Bloganuary” Challenge for a few days, too.

This is the last post of 2021 as I take a short break for the holidays. Please join me on January 9th with a look back on your photography highlights and your 2021 year in review. Meanwhile, follow me on my social media pages:

To see more of my images and other news, consider following Terri on Social Media by clicking the icons:

image from Color Planet

Wishing you all the most magical season filled with love and laughter! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours. “See” you on January 9th!

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Ten Ways I Beat the Winter Blues

How I Dealt with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

How I Dealt with SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you reside on planet Earth, you are aware of the storms and wild weather that have affected the U.S. and beyond. California has made the news, not for its famous 5-year drought, but for the record rain and mountain snowfall the entire state has experienced all winter.

The rain and foul weather is a blessing…and a curse. A blessing because the state desperately needs the rain and snow-pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

A curse because… 1. It’s too much water too fast (see link on Oroville Dam); 2. Gloom, rain, clouds and lack of sunlight affect many people and may lead to a form of depression in a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

Winter rain pours from the sky on a dismal gray day
This much rain poured from the sky and from my roof recently!

The Mayo Clinic website suggests “The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression. A drop or change in both serotonin and melatonin (neurotransmitters) levels can bring on seasonal depression.”

Fellow blogger, Sally Cronin, writes extensively about Seasonal Affective Disorder in her blog, Smorgasbord: Variety is the Spice of Life.

This insidious condition does not affect everyone. You would think that by my living in “sunny” California, SAD would not be an issue. I’m here to tell you, um, yes, it’s an issue.

Since 2011, our winters have been mild. We’ve seen much more sun January through March—our typical rainy season. Sure, we had a decent amount of rain in November and December in those years, enough to keep the Sierra ski resorts open for business. In 2011, we even had record snowfall that kept snow in the Sierras well into June. After that? Nada! No wonder I have not experienced the “winter blues” in a while!

What is SAD? Here are some symptoms:

  • Lack of energy—feeling overwhelmed and helpless. These are confusing and horrible feelings for a rather positive person like myself.
  • Feeling guilty or worried—heightened anxiety. I found myself frowning and unconsciously grinding my teeth. Why??
  • Weakened immune system. I got two severe colds in December and January. I am rarely sick, so getting two colds within a two-month time-frame now makes sense.
  • Experiencing sleep disturbances, lack of sleep or the ability to socialize. This did not affect me that much, thank goodness, or you might be visiting me in the hospital!
  • Irritability—Having a lower threshold of crankiness and impatience. Oooh, no wonder I’ve snapped at my poor hubby lately.
  • Overeating and weight gain (or craving carbs and sugar more than usual). After a year of successfully using Weight Watchers to lose 30 pounds, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t gain any weight at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but started craving carbs and sugar in mid-January and gained two pounds. What was different? It also didn’t help that we celebrated a few family birthdays in January.

“Many (may also) attribute these symptoms to the lack of vitamin D in the winter. To help battle these symptoms, it is advised to get as much natural sunlight as possible; which may mean heading outdoors in and around the lunch hour, or during a bright winter day. Even on the coldest of days, if the sun is out, bundling up, and heading outside for a least an hour, can improve SAD symptoms significantly.” 10 Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

It would be unwise of me to live in the far northern hemisphere without access to a sunlamp.

All of this explains my feelings of being disorganized, always overwhelmed, and unable to multi-task (my super-power). It also explains lately why I am slow to read blogs, comment and share on social media. The low energy just makes it difficult to engage. So, I apologize now for my sluggishness, and soon I will be back to my bubbly self and to your blogs!

I now have a new appreciation for the depression and anxiety my daughter went through in the last few years. She told me, “people would ask, what do you have to be depressed about? That made me even more depressed and anxious.” For her, graduating from college and landing her first job with the State of California pulled her out of her anxiety.

How did I beat SAD, or the “Winter Blues?”

Spring brings clouds of blossoms
Spring brings clouds of blossoms

1. First, simply recognizing the symptoms. I had all but forgotten them because of the (abnormal) winter sunlight. Even reading about the symptoms, it still did not occur to me that I was currently suffering.
2. Talking it over with family members went a long way toward acknowledging my problem. For many, depression is difficult to discuss and carries a social stigma.
3. Getting on with my life and not letting anxiety and blue moods get the best of me. Now I have a better understanding of my youngest daughter’s anxiety in the last few years and what she went through. It is easier than you might think to get caught up in these moods,  leading to Number 4.
4. Not giving up or giving in to defeat, or making rash decisions about life events and hobbies that can’t be undone. It was literally on the precipice of giving up writing and blogging altogether, thinking “I have nothing left to share.”
5. Recognizing that the blues and doldrums will affect me occasionally and strive to pay better attention to those cues.
6. Opening the blinds and letting more light into the rooms. Yes, that means I will see dust and know that “spring cleaning” is imminent. But that’s OK.
7. Just getting outside and letting a little sunshine wash over me. March is here and with it, stronger, longer sunny days. The sun arcs a little higher in the sky each day.
8. Pulling favorite spring clothing items out of my closet and gazing upon their bright colors (“oh, hello, pretty pink shirt—I can’t wait to wear you”).
9. Investing time in small indulgences like buying a new, brighter lip gloss or new make-up always makes me feel better. And it is definitely time for a pedicure!
10. Keeping within the structure of my fitness and weight loss routine. Exercising regularly and eating healthy foods are critical to normal functions.

“Since I started writing this post, we have had four days of wonderful sunshine! I can already feel the difference!”

What should I do for future gray days?

  • Mark a big SAD on my calendar in mid-November as a reminder. The frenetic pace of preparing for the holidays may mask the symptoms. It did in my case, leaving me hollow and empty right after New Year’s.
  • Plan a sunny winter trip. Next January, I hope to spend three weeks in San Diego and Baja, Mexico. Those three weeks I spent last January 2016 in the warm sun, were just enough to stave off that year’s SAD symptoms. I better start saving for an annual January trip! I’m thinking Baja and Hawaii in alternating years!

I do not want to make light of this potentially serious situation. Depression in any form is dangerous and, if undiagnosed, can eventually lead to health problems, feelings of suicide and death. If you are experiencing the “winter blues” and the feelings are not diminishing with the coming spring and sunlight, I urge you to see your doctor right away.

I am also linking this post to Colleen Chesebro’s blog, A Mindful Journey

My haiku and image to celebrate the end of SAD!
My Haiku: Spring blossoms flutter, whisking away winter blues, hope springs eternal.

Have you experienced the “winter blues?” Please feel free to share in the comments what helped you lift your mood.

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