Fighting SAD

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” – Jesus, as quoted in John 8:12 (NLT)

January, for me, is a long, dark month when I want to sleep and eat more, especially bread and pasta, carbs that put on the pounds and make me feel tired and achy. Not surprising, January is when I gain the most weight and am grumpier and moodier than in other months. And take the most afternoon naps.

These are all classic symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that hits folks during the winter months, when the daylight hours are shortest. Scientists believe the lack of sunlight affects the output of serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. The more serotonin you produce, the better you feel. Less grumpy, hungry, and tired.

Most years, we spend a week in South Carolina between Christmas and New Year’s Day, visiting our daughter and soaking up the Southern sun. This year we didn’t make the trip. What a difference! Only two weeks into January I’m dealing with the symptoms of SAD, which seem worse than other years. I attribute that to no Southern sun and all the gray, cloudy, dreary days we’ve endured here in Western Pennsylvania these past few months.

Since serotonin is affected by the amount of time spent in natural sunlight, the treatment for SAD is simple: more light.

Bright light therapy involves spending at least half an hour, usually in the morning, before a bright lamp called a light box specifically made to simulate natural sunlight.

This year I invested in a SAD lamp. I noticed a difference the first day I used it. I wasn’t so draggy and depressed. These SAD lamps are effective, but I need to stick with the program until the season changes and not stop once I start feeling better.

Biblically, darkness represents evil, sin, and ignorance – a lack of the knowledge of God and His goodness. Just as physical darkness is the absence of light, so spiritual darkness is the absence of the Light – the Son that shines in our souls when we open our hearts and lives and let Him in.

But throwing open the windows of our souls one time isn’t enough the help us as we battle the darkness of the world in which we must live. Just like a person affected by SAD must spend at least half an hour every morning absorbing light, so must our spirits spend time with the Light of the World every day, absorbing His Word and basking in His presence through prayer.

This – and only this – will give us the energy to say no to the bad carbs of temptation and avoid adding the weight of sin to our world-weary spirits. Spending time in the Sonlight will give us energy to exercise righteousness and will satisfy the taste buds of our souls (“O taste and see that the LORD is good” –Psalm 34:8).

The season of darkness won’t be over until Jesus, the Son of God, returns, but until then, you can fight the January blahs – both physically and spiritually – with a two-word plan: Fiat lux – Latin for “Let there be light!”

Thank you, Lord, for Your unending light that warms me, lightens my path, and fills me energy. Amen.

Read and meditate on Ephesians 5:8–14

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Bummed Out

When my anxieties multiply, your comforting calms me down. – Psalm 94:19 CEB

Last Sunday we lit the pink candle on the Advent wreath at church – the Candle of Joy. I was feeling anything but joy.

It’s been a trying year, and the previous week brought even more challenges. A dear cousin passed away from lung cancer. I hadn’t even known she was sick. After thorough exams by two eye doctors, we still don’t know why the vision in my left eye is cloudy. My children are scattered, all three living in different states: Michigan, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Three of our grandchildren who used to live next door now live over 30 miles away.

DH and I are staying home this Christmas instead of traveling.

And Christmas Eve . . . Ah, that’s going to be hard. We’ll come home after the candlelight service at church to an empty, quiet house. After a lifetime of noise, food, fellowship, fun, and family. No sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of the dining room, watching all the chaos.

So, yeah, I’m bummed out.

When folks ask how I am, I say “good.” What a lie! But if I told them the truth, what good would it do? Chances are I’ll get the following words of advice:

“Look on the bright side.”

“Count your blessings.”

“Put on a happy face.”

Well, I don’t wanna.

People mean well, but sometimes I just get tired of those adages, those clichés, those trite statements that seem to overlook my pain. I don’t want to look on the bright side, count my blessings, put on a happy face. Not when I feel my best days are behind me. Not when I feel alone and so very far away from those closest to my heart.

It got me thinking about the stuff of life that steals our joy. So I posted a question on Facebook: “What steals your joy?”

Here are the top three:

  1. Worry and anxiety. One person wrote, “Worrying and stressing over things I have no control over.”
  2. Other people and the way they treat us, with negative people taking the top spot in that category for siphoning the joy out of others. Following close behind were people who are mean, pushy, whiny, and selfish. One lady wrote, “My son being a jerk to me now.”
  3. Being compared and criticized. One woman wrote, “Being yelled at.” How sad.

Completing the Top Ten were finances (“being poor” one person wrote), illness, conflict/arguments/strife, pain, overthinking, and stress.

Looking over the list, I asked myself two questions: Which of the joy stealers come from outside forces and which from within myself? Which of them are ones I can control?

I came up with three things I can do when it seems I’m losing my joy.

First, know where true joy comes from – God. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, who abides in me. That being said, it’s OK to be sad. You can still have abiding joy when you’re grieving.

And it’s OK to struggle to navigate the times of transition. Life changes. It is not static, and we must change with it, whether we like it or not.

When you need to shift gears and adjust, know God is right there with you: “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you,” He tells us in Isaiah 43:2. “When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Notice He says “when” – not “if.”

Second, control the joy stealers that you can. Avoid toxic, negative people. Rein in your finances by setting and adhering to a reasonable budget, paying down debt, and making wise purchases. Refuse to worry. Conquer it with prayer and Scripture.

And finally, when you’ve done all you can, give the rest to God.

What is stealing your joy? What are you going to do about it?

When I’m feeling bummed out, Lord, help me as I mourn my losses, adjust to change, and trust You to guide me on my life’s journey. And remind me that weeping may endure for a night, no matter how long that night is, but joy WILL come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Read and meditate on Psalm 30

 © 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.