Homeschooling with Seasonal Affective Disorder ~
Written by Cait Curley of My Little Poppies
It happens every year, without fail, and I don’t know if it is my age or what, but each year it gets a little bit worse.
And, sometimes, it strikes all of a sudden, out of the blue… er- gray.
The homeschool year starts off okay. Great even! We crack open those new books, open a fresh sheet of notebook paper, and everywhere we look we see pencils with tips and erasers. The future is bright. Eyes are twinkling. We have big plans for the year. We feel collectively enthusiastic. We are all on one team and we are going to rock this year straight out of the park.
And then, after a few weeks, it happens.
Suddenly, the air has a chill. The sky is more gray than blue. Every morning seems a little darker; nightfall creeps closer each afternoon.
And, if you’re like me, motivation plummets.
If you are homeschooling with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this time of year can be… tricky.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is tied to the change in season. You can read more about the disorder here, but – in a nutshell- SAD is a type of depression that typically presents in the fall and resolves in the spring.
I have struggled with SAD for years, but it is definitely trickier to navigate SAD when you are homeschooling little ones. Every year, I feel that our homeschool is chugging along at a great pace. We are happy and enjoying the journey. And then BAM! everything comes to a screeching halt. We lose steam, we get cranky, we accomplish less… and this homeschool mama feels terrible about it all.
Today, I’d like to share some tips and tricks that have helped me navigate the winter blues over the years. I’ll be sharing strategies to help you feel better, in addition to tricks for helping your homeschool atmosphere feel better.
Photo by Tracey Hocking
But first, an important note…
If your seasonal affective disorder is significantly impairing your daily functioning, and especially if there is a history of depression and anxiety in your family, please seek professional help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, in combination with other strategies, can work wonders. So, please, listen to your gut. You will be so thankful that you did and by helping yourself, you will be helping your children and family!
How to feel your best when dealing with SAD
My first couple of tips will seem obvious, but I know how easy it is to overlook the obvious when you aren’t feeling like yourself. Sleep is so important!
Depression can impact sleep. Some people will struggle with insomnia, while others may sleep too much. As a lifelong insomniac, I sort of hate when people tell me I should get more sleep. I mean, I would if I could! I have found that it is best to go to bed at the same time each night after a calming bedtime routine. (For me, this includes reading before bed. More on that in a second!)
I am a bit of a health nut, but I struggle with this one this time of year. It’s almost as if my body wants to hibernate. I crave carbs (helloooo there Cape Cod potato chips!) and I have zero desire to food prep.
The thing is, eating poorly or not eating enough just makes you feel worse.
My solution? Keep it simple, and rely on your old tried-and-true strategies. For me, this means soup in the crockpot. For you, this might mean a rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies or a meal prep/delivery service. Do what works for you and do not feel guilty about it. You can get fancy in the spring!
I’ve struggled with low vitamin D for years so once the days start to shorten I use a liquid vitamin D every single day and I do notice a difference. I also love love love my liquid vitamins, especially the one for nighttime (afflink) as it helps me relax and fall asleep easier.
This is another one of those easier-said-than-done suggestions, but it is one that can make an incredible difference! When I start to feel low, I flip our days. I prioritize our daily hike and make sure it happens in the morning.
Yes, before the books.
This can seem counterintuitive, but trust me- it works. Getting outside, breathing the fresh air, soaking in whatever rays the sun is offering, and connecting with your kiddos can make a world of difference when it comes to everyone’s moods and cooperation.
On the days that we prioritize our morning nature time, we usually accomplish more than those days I opt to sit at home and tackle homeschool must-dos.
This goes along with the preceding topic, but nature can have a positive impact on mood. There have been oodles of scientific studies on this one!
I am really great about daily meditation… until I start to get stressed out or super-busy.
A few weeks ago, when my SAD first rolled into town, I was having a particularly down day. I had just teared up over the phone with my homeschool sister when all of a sudden a notification popped up on my phone. It said something like this:
“Hi, Cait! We haven’t seen you in a while and we miss you!”
It was from Headspace. My favorite meditation app.
The comedy of the moment made my tears turn to laughter. I resolved to complete at least three minutes per day.
Three minutes. It seems like a ridiculously small amount of time, but I promise you that it can make a huge difference.
I get outside daily, but when it comes to SAD, it’s just not enough. I’ve dabbled in phototherapy over the years, but the light we had was super-clunky and in an inconvenient spot.
Last year, my husband bought a new, smaller and more portable phototherapy light.
I sit in front of it every morning during our Coffee and Books routine. I have felt much better since using it daily!
When I am feeling “stuck” in a homeschool rut, I love to pull out a favorite book.
The following books always leave me feeling inspired:
- A Gracious Space by Julie Bogart (Julie has a new book coming out in February and I cannot wait to read it. The sample was amazing!)
- Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison
- Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
- Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie
If you’re homeschooling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, pay special attention to your homeschool environment
Whenever my SAD hits, my motivation plummets. We accomplish fewer of those homeschool to-dos and I am left feeling extraordinarily guilty about it all.
I try to remind myself that homeschool has its seasons. For our family, late fall and winter are a time to slow down and to savor the ordinary moments.
When I relax and focus on our connection and our hearts, things eventually come back to normal.
Read, read, read
I truly believe that if you read aloud often, you’re doing just fine.
Don’t believe me? Well, you don’t have to take my word for it!
Check out these books to see what an impact reading aloud can make on a family:
- The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
- Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin
In difficult seasons, pull out a book or listen to an audiobook. Then, snuggle up together and enjoy the moment.
I am an avid gameschooler and gameschooling is my go-to winter survival strategy.
So much learning happens when you kick back, relax, and have fun. Plus, you are building those all-important family connections that make for a peaceful homeschool atmosphere!
Don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry! I’ve compiled a list of our favorite gameschooling resources by academic subject!
I know I said it above, but it bears repeating. Nature also has a positive impact on your children!
If you are interested in reading more on this topic, this is one of my all-time favorite books.
Hygge doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but the closest word is probably coziness. We all want our homeschools to feel cozy, don’t we?
Last year, Kara and I chatted about hyggeschooling and – as a result- our family had one of its best winters ever!
So how do you add more hygge to your homeschool day?
Here are some ideas:
- Warm beverages
- Tasty treats (these can be from a box, sweet mama!)
- Twinkle lights
- Good books
- Cozy movie nights
As much as I despise SAD, I am excited to hyggeschool again this winter. In fact, I’ve already added some battery operated candles and twinkle lights to our family room. I cannot tell you how peaceful it feels when those lights come on at night.
Sitting in front of the fire, reading a delicious book, gives me hope that we’ll find our rhythm again soon.
If you are struggling with SAD, I am toasting you with my tea and hoping you find your rhythm soon, too!
Now, it’s your turn. Tell us: Are you homeschooling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, too? Share here!
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