by Rozella Haydée White, LEAD Consultant

This time of year is hard for many people. Days are shorter and light is fleeting. The warmth of summer transitions to the crispness of fall, which then fades away into the coldness of winter. The holidays, while a time of celebration for many, can bring up many emotions for people trying to navigate family relationships, customs, and tensions.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly referred to as SAD, is a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in winter. Common symptoms include sleeping too much, having little to no energy, and overeating. (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

For faith leaders, this time of year not only includes the aforementioned realities, it is also chock full of religious rituals and traditions that require leaders to be ever present. Advent and Christmas are the holiest of times for those leading in Christian communities. There are book studies, bible studies, pageants, plays, choir concerts, luncheons, dinners, volunteering, multiple worship services, and did I mention, dinners?

It can be easy to ignore your mental health during this time of year as you care for everyone else and keep your eye towards the end of the season. However, a healthier approach is to be proactive and to take stock of your mood, patterns, and behaviors.

SAD is both common and treatable. Upping your vitamin D intake, getting more sunlight or in its place, using a light box, eating well, and exercising are some tools that help you in this season.

As I have made friends with my ever present depression, I have learned to be vigilant during this time of year. Setting and keeping boundaries that support my mental wellness are key. This is the work of leadership in the face of potential moments of overwhelm – to take stock of your health, to remember that you are not solely responsible for the work, to engage in collaborative partnerships, and to seek out help and support that nurture wellness.

For more information on SAD and tools to support you in this season visit 12 Ways to Ease Seasonal Depression Symptoms.