I've got a friend who is currently caring for her mother who is battling dementia. Although, most times, her mom is in a pretty good mood, if there are two times when she can basically predict that she's not gonna be the happiest person, it's when it rains and when time "falls back" (you know, when time changes in the autumn season). We've figured that a big part of that is because it's darker outside during those moments and that triggers a certain level of seasonal depression (which is also known as seasonal affective disorder).
While scientists are actually still trying to figure out what causes seasonal depression to happen in some individuals and not others, what they do know is 1) it is connected to a hormonal shift in the brain; 2) it transpires in women more than men; 3) it tends to begin during childhood or early adolescence; 4) while there is something called "summer depression", depression during the fall and winter months is far more common because there's less sunlight, which means less serotonin is produced, which means it can be more challenging to keep a positive mindset, and 5) if you've got less energy, you gain more weight, you can't seem to focus, you want to be alone a lot more and you'd prefer to sleep more than just about anything else. If you could nod your head up and down to all of this, there's a good chance that seasonal depression is exactly what you are struggling with.
While in extreme cases, sometimes your doctor will recommend that you take an antidepressant in order to get you through, milder forms of seasonal depression can be headed off by taking some proactive measures. Below, I've enclosed 10 proven hacks that can make this time of the year, so much more bearable, if seasonal depression is something that is an annual challenge in your life.
1. Find the Good About Fall and Winter
As someone who's favorite time of the year is autumn, this first tip is something that I can't personally relate to, although I do know some folks who very much so struggle with embracing fall and autumn seasons. Oftentimes, the weather is so much gloomier. If you're not big on holidays, you can almost feel like you're suffocating between Halloween and New Year's Day. Plus, if you're single when this time of year rolls around, between all of the Hallmark holiday flicks, holiday parties and family gatherings that consist of relatives who are all booed up, that can sometimes take its toll as well.
That's why, it's important to not go into fall and wintertime with a doomed mindset. Try and be intentional about looking for some of the good things that you like about both seasons. Maybe it's having (or taking) some time off. Maybe it's the holiday music and decorations. Maybe it's that some of your favorite shows are returning (shout-out to This Is Us). While it can be difficult at times, being intentional about taking a glass-half-full approach to November thru January (especially) can make seasonal depression less of a challenge than it usually is.
2. Bring More Color into Your Life
There is oftentimes a lot of inclement weather that comes with this time of the year; that means a lot of gloomy grey days. Something else that can make seasonal depression a lot easier to bear is if you add more color to your home and your attire. While it is true that bright colors are typically associated with spring and summer, those "rules" are arbitrary. Some yellow (which represents happiness and creativity) bedding or a big orange (which represents enthusiasm and encouragement) scarf or even applying a bright shade of lipstick, can be a simple way to bring feelings of joy and comfort to your personal space.
2. Buy a Dawn Simulator
Something that a lot of mental health experts recommend that those with seasonal depression invest in is a dawn simulator. Basically, it's a form of light therapy where the room the simulator is in is able to lighten up, gradually, over 30 minutes to two hours of time. If you get a dawn simulator alarm clock, it can ease you into a new day with more light than may be outdoors without it feeling invasive or annoying. It can definitely beat the intrusiveness of the overhead lights that you probably have in various rooms of your house. Anyway, if you want to treat yourself to a dawn simulator alarm clock, you can check out some of the best on the market here. Or, if you'd prefer to test out a dawn simulating app instead, you can check out a pretty good one here.
4. Get More Vitamin D into Your System
Something that is directly linked to seasonal depression is not getting enough Vitamin D into your system. That's why, if seasonal depression is an annual thing for you, it's important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to get your Vitamin D levels checked.
Some things that can help to up your intake is getting more sunlight by walking or exercising outdoors, taking a Vitamin D supplement and/or being intentional about consuming foods that are high in this particular nutrient. Some of those include salmon, mushrooms, egg yolks, orange juice and oatmeal.
5. Schedule Your Screen Time
Wanna know something that is absolutely not good for a person with seasonal depression? Insomnia. While there may be times when you find yourself tossing and turning all night, always turning on your television or smartphone to distract you is going to ultimately end up doing more harm than good. For one thing, those types of light sources can disrupt the circadian rhythms of your brain which ends up altering the melatonin levels that you need in order to sleep soundly. While you might not wanna hear it, putting yourself on a screen time and sleep schedule are two of the best ways to combat seasonal depression. Make sure that you do, OK?
6. Snack on Walnuts, Seeds and Berries
Did you know that there are certain foods that you can eat that will help to get you through seasonal depression as well? Aside from the foods that I shared in the article, "In A Bad Mood? These Foods Will Lift Your Spirits!", if you want something to snack on—walnuts and seeds (like flaxseeds and chia seeds) are high in omega-3 fatty acids which help to lower depression-related symptoms, while berries are loaded with antioxidants; ones that are able to heal bodily inflammation. Berries also contain fiber that can help to get toxins out of your system. While most berries are actually in season during the spring and summer months, imported blueberries are available year-round and cranberries are especially big this time of the year.
7. Apply Some Balsam Poplar Essential Oil
If you've spent, even a little bit of time on our site, you know that we're all about some essential oils, chile (check out "6 Different Places To Apply Essential Oils. And Why.", "7 Essential Oils All Naturalistas Need For Their Hair", "9 All-Natural Essentials That Need To Be In Your Skincare Routine", "10 Essential Oil Beauty Hacks I Bet You Didn't Know About" and "8 Natural Aphrodisiac Scents, Where They Go & How To Make Them Last"). Well, when it comes to an essential oil that specifically helps to alleviate seasonal depression-related symptoms, one that you should definitely have in your collection is balsam poplar essential oil.
From an external standpoint, this oil (which has a sweet and woodsy-like smell to it) is excellent at helping to heal wounds, bruises, and scars, as well as eczema, thanks to its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Also, thanks to its analgesic and antispasmodic compounds, this is the kind of essential oil that helps to soothe muscle soreness and strain.
Internally, many people who practice aromatherapy say that balsam poplar essential oil is awesome at encouraging emotional healing while promoting an inner sense of calm and tranquility. Definitely worth giving a shot when it comes to applying it to your pressure points, your clothing, or on your bedding before turning in every evening.
8. Know Your Triggers
While seasonal depression is not something that I personally struggle with (two of my favorite spots are Seattle and London and it doesn't get much "gloomier" than there), it has been a real game-changer for me to learn what my triggers are and how to deactivate them. If you know that your aunt is gonna ask you, at least 10 times at Thanksgiving about when you're finally gonna get a man; if you know that, like clockwork, certain Christmas songs are gonna make you cry; if you know that, drinking too much alcohol is gonna turn you into an erratic mess—decide now that you are going to do whatever is necessary to not allow these things to get to you in the way that they traditionally do. Nipping triggers in the bud is a superpower. I'd be floored if it didn't do wonders when it comes to handling seasonal depression, on every level.
9. Be Intentional About Relaxing
Depression is weird in the sense that, while on one hand, you probably feel like you have absolutely no energy at all, on the other, you may be anxious a lot of the time. Something that can help both sides of this coin is learning how to chill out—you know,relax. Meditating. Reading a book. Curling up in your bed to watch a favorite movie for the billionth time. Soaking in the tub until…whenever. Sipping on some warm tea or hot chocolate. Getting off the grid, taking some deep breaths and just being in the stillness of the moment can calm your spirit down and also make you feel more at ease and at peace. Do it daily, please. It's essential.
10. Have a Strong Support System
There is someone I know who gets pretty low around this time. And while, the rest of the year, we find ourselves catching up on the phone maybe once a month, for the past five years or so, I've prepped myself to be on-call for them, right around November or so. Sometimes, they will ring me in the middle of the night, just to talk, or sometimes or to ask me to sit on the phone and watch a movie or something with them. The holidays are a lonely time in their world and, because they are a friend, I am willing to do what I need to do to help get them through it.
Another reason why seasonal depression can be rough is that it can have you out here thinking that you are selfish for not feeling so hot during a time of year when folks are focused on the holidays and their own families. Yet always remember that the people who love you, want to support you. That's a part of the reason why I wrote, "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'". Being a good friend isn't always easy, but when your friend is good to you in return, it's always worth it.
Seasonal depression can be super challenging. Yet it can also be easier than it's been in the years before. Try these hacks and also share others in the comments. You'll get through this, sis. Last year is a great reminder of that. Hang in there. This too shall pass.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Tabitha Brown Explains Why She's Still Approachable After All The Success She Has Achieved
Social media personality, entrepreneur, and Emmy-nominated host Tabitha Brown have won the hearts of many with her kind demeanor and positive outlook on life, as evidenced by the uplifting videos she shares on her social media page.
The mother of two --who has been a part of the entertainment industry as an actress for over a decade with minor roles in films, television shows, and videos--became a household name in 2020 after her TikTok content of vegan food and inspirational posts went viral. In addition to the virality, Brown gained millions of followers solely based on her loving personality and was ultimately nicknamed America's Mom by her fans.
Since then, Brown has used her popularity to obtain various job opportunities. The list includes the 44-year-old's children's television show Tab Time, a haircare brand Donna's Recipe, a collection with Target, and a McCormick partnership for her Sunshine All Purpose Seasoning, among other things.
In a recent interview on Shannon Sharpe's Club Shay Shay podcast, Brown opened up about how she remains positive regardless of life's circumstances and why she continues to be an approachable figure despite all the success she has achieved.
Tabitha On Why She's A Positive Person
During the discussion, Brown revealed that her positivity comes from her late mother, Patricia, and how she dealt with her 2005 diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS.)
According to John Hopkins Medicine, the terminal disease "affects the functions of one's nerves and muscles." The site also states that ALS can affect "any racial or ethnic group" around 40 to 70 years old. To date, there is no particular cause or cure for ALS.
During her mother's journey with ALS, Brown shared that her mom never complained or wished away the disease but dealt with it gracefully because she believed it was part of God's will. Sadly two years following her diagnosis, Patricia passed away in 2007 at 51.
Following the loss of her mother, Brown disclosed that she uses the lessons she learned from her mom in her "everyday life" because she knows that no matter what happens, it will not compare to what her mother endured.
"Listen, it plays a large role in my everyday life, in my everyday life. Even like right now, things I'm going through, I be like, 'I'd hate that I'm going through this, but there's nothing compared to that,'" she said.
Tabitha On Why She's An Approachable Person
As the topic shifted to how friendly and approachable Brown has been toward her fans over the years, the star explained that her kind demeanor has always been a part of her personality and will continue to be regardless of her celebrity status.
When asked why she usually makes time for her fans, Brown told Sharpe that it's because she understands that her supporters are one of the reasons she is successful.
"I'm going in. I'm going in for the hugs. I'm like, 'Hey, how y'all [doing]? I love that, but also like how dare I not have time for the people who helped me climb. You know, I am in this position because God said I could have it right, but because people support me," she stated while describing her past encounters with her fans.
Brown would add that her appreciation for her fans runs so deep that she is willing to take time out of her schedule to meet and talk to everyone when she has events.
"I have events, and if there's a meet and greet, you better not put a time limit for me because I'm going to see every person literally," she said. "It will go from an hour to 10 hours."
Brown wrapped up the statement by saying her meet and greets could take about 10 hours because she gets to know everyone in line.
With Brown's recent revelation about positivity and being approachable, it appears that she's found the formula of what it means to be a well-rounded person.
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