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.
Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.
Featured image by Shutterstock
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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 (email@example.com) 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.
How Content Creators Hey Fran Hey And Shameless Maya Embraced The Pivot
This article is in partnership with Meta Elevate.
If you’ve been on the internet at all within the past decade, chances are the names Hey Fran Hey and Shameless Maya (aka Maya Washington) have come across your screen. These content creators have touched every platform on the web, spreading joy to help women everywhere live their best lives. From Fran’s healing natural remedies to Maya’s words of wisdom, both of these content creators have built a loyal following by sharing honest, useful, and vulnerable content. But in search of a life that lends to more creativity, freedom, and space, these digital mavens have moved from their bustling big cities (New York City and Los Angeles respectively) to more remote locations, taking their popular digital brands with them.
Content Creators Hey Fran Hey and Maya Washington Talk "Embracing The Pivot"www.youtube.com
In partnership with Meta Elevate — an online learning platform that provides Black, Hispanic, and Latinx-owned businesses access to 1:1 mentoring, digital skills training, and community — xoNecole teamed up with Franscheska Medina and Maya Washington on IG live recently for a candid conversation about how they’ve embraced the pivot by changing their surroundings to ultimately bring out the best in themselves and their work. Fran, a New York City native, moved from the Big Apple to Portland, Oregon a year ago. Feeling overstimulated by the hustle and bustle of city life, Fran headed to the Pacific Northwest in search of a more easeful life.
Her cross-country move is the backdrop for her new campaign with Meta Elevate— a perfectly-timed commercial that shows how you can level up from wherever you land with the support of free resources like Meta Elevate. Similarly, Maya packed up her life in Los Angeles and moved to Sweden, where she now resides with her husband and adorable daughter. Maya’s life is much more rural and farm-like than it had been in California, but she is thriving in this peaceful new setting while finding her groove as a new mom.
While Maya is steadily building and growing her digital brand as a self-proclaimed “mom coming out of early retirement,” Fran is redefining her own professional grind. “It’s been a year since I moved from New York City to Portland, Oregon,” says Fran. “I think the season I’m in is figuring out how to stay successful while also slowing down.” A slower-paced life has unlocked so many creative possibilities and opportunities for these ladies, and our conversation with them is a well-needed reminder that your success is not tied to your location…especially with the internet at your fingertips. Tapping into a community like Meta Elevate can help Black, Hispanic, and Latinx entrepreneurs and content creators stay connected to like minds and educated on new digital skills and tools that can help scale their businesses.
During a beautiful moment in the conversation, Fran gives Maya her flowers for being an innovator in the digital space. Back when “influencing” was in its infancy and creators were just trying to find their way, Fran says Maya was way ahead of her time. “I give Maya credit for being one of the pioneers in the digital space,” Fran said. “Maya is a one-person machine, and I always tell her she really changed the game on what ads, campaigns, and videos, in general, should look like.”
When asked what advice she’d give content creators, Maya says the key is having faith even when you don’t see the results just yet. “It’s so easy to look at what is, despite you pouring your heart into this thing that may not be giving you the returns that you thought,” she says. “Still operate from a place of love and authenticity. Have faith and do the work. A lot of people are positive thinkers, but that’s the thinking part. You also have to put your faith into work and do the work.”
Fran ultimately encourages content creators and budding entrepreneurs to take full advantage of Meta Elevate’s vast offerings to educate themselves on how to build and grow their businesses online. “It took me ten years to get to the point where I’m making ads at this level,” she says. “I didn’t have those resources in 2010. I love the partnership with Meta Elevate because they’re providing these resources for free. I just think of the people that wouldn’t be able to afford that education and information otherwise. So to amplify a company like this just feels right.”
Watch the full conversation with the link above, and join the Meta Elevate community to connect with fellow businesses and creatives that are #OnTheRiseTogether.
Featured image courtesy of Shameless Maya and Hey Fran Hey
Max And Maya Living: A Candid Look At Love Abroad Behind The Cameras
For Maya and Max, the cameras are always on. The YouTube duo famously chronicle their lives as partners in both love and work in front of an audience of more than one million across various social media pages, candidly detailing everything from the ins and outs of their relationship and traveling to more intimate moments including the home birth of their first child in the countryside of Sweden. The pair have carved out a digital path, each step symbolic of who they are individually and their union that refuses to shrink itself into traditional roles.
Side by side, the two shared with xoNecole, their lives prior to the creation of Max & Maya Living, their popular YouTube channel. Tracing back to when Maya, known as “Shameless Maya,” was a solo highly sought-after influencer with international campaigns and a million followers, and Max was a budding actor, student, and photographer exploring the world.
Now, three years later, as joint influencers, married, with a child, and living in a new country, the two take a walk down memory lane before an audience accessed their home, their dreams, and their family life with the click of a button.
With sincere smiles of adoration and affection and earnest candidacy, the two shared how one late night tucked away in a cafe in Colombia turned into a proposal nine months later. A friendship quickly transcends to become a story of love strengthened by cultural differences, long distance, and an age gap to build a foundation of both self-discovery and a forever partnership.
Take us to the beginning, how did you two meet?
Max: I was backpacking through Colombia, and I made a stop at a hostel where Maya was staying. I was living in London, and I was transiting to Berlin, and this was my trip just before relocating. We were staying in a surf hostel, but there were no waves, and at night it turned into a spring break vibe where people were shooting vodka through water guns, and I was not there for that. So I walked to this outskirts hotel, and there at a barista cafe, Maya was sitting there.
Maya: We began bonding over our history in the arts. We both went to drama school, so that was our first talking point and from there, we [talked] for hours and embarked on a beautiful friendship. Max and I hit it off and [spent] three days… laughing our butts off and just being able to relate to one another.
After leaving Colombia, where did the friendship stand?
Maya: When I went back to L.A. I thought this would be over; I was like, wow! I really feel like I met such an amazing soul, but I couldn't see him as anything more than a friend. I'm 12 years older, and I'm this huge YouTuber in L.A., and he's a student transitioning to Berlin. So in my brain, I automatically put him in the friend category. But, he just kept reaching out, and he was so honest with everything, and a lot of guys put up a front… they see my nice home, my nice car, they won't say it, but they just look and start asking questions. Whereas Max he was like, "Omg! You live in this house? Are you rich, Maya?" Just very candid.
Max: I had a feeling that there was a slight mutual love potential, but I was afraid. I thought the stakes were very high, and I did not want to lose her as a friend. If I allowed myself [to think about how a relationship would work], it was just too complicated. But since our foundation was such a beautiful friendship, the obstacles of age and location, living on different continents, in different stages of our lives and careers, I [just] allowed myself to be grateful for our friendship.
Are you able to pinpoint when your feelings for each other transitioned from just friendship?
Maya: [Back in L.A.] I was reading my journal because I had written out what I was looking for in my ideal partner, and I remembered crying. What I had written was what and who Max is and what we did. I had written out an ideal date for us, and we had done that in Colombia, which was hiking, and that wasn't even a date. It was more like, "I'm going to this national park. Do you want to go with me?" So we were doing this long distance [friendship], and Max had no idea I was even entertaining this idea of us being together.
Max: For me, Maya was checking all the boxes, but I hadn't done anything but be myself. It was a strong feeling that I didn't even think of myself saying, I want it to be exclusive. It just came from the heart. I knew that I wanted to be exclusive regardless if it was going to be long distance. I think there's a tendency for men to put up a facade - you want to check all the boxes that person is looking for because otherwise, you might lose this person forever.
Just a few months after their initial spark in Colombia, Maya booked a job in Germany. Not exactly Sweden where Max was spending time with his family before his move to Berlin but still much closer to him than when she was in the City of Angels. Immediately after her job concluded, she decided to visit Sweden and visit Max.
Essentially, making the first move, for Maya, this was her chance to explore the feelings that constantly linked her back to Max. For Max, it was the time to show the dazzling YouTuber more than just another country to mark off on her passport but his home.
So Maya, tell us about your trip to visit Max in Sweden.
Maya: Love requires you to risk winning and risk losing, and you have to be okay with that. You can't be afraid. You have to keep taking steps forward, and I'm so glad I did. I made the first major flight to Sweden to see Max. Most women wouldn't do that; they'd think, "He needs to come to me." You just need to be honest with who you are and what you [want]. If that's very important to you, then that's your choice. For me, love required me to take a risk.
Since he was working in Sweden for a very short time period, it didn't make sense for me to request him to come to L.A. So, I was willing to take that first step, and you have to be open when it's a healthy risk.
"Love requires you to risk winning and risk losing, and you have to be okay with that,. You can’t be afraid. For me, love required me to take a risk."
Max: The day after Maya left Sweden, I could have asked her to marry me. I'm very traditional in that sense, where I believe in finding the one. Some people choose to commit to a relationship because of other values or interests. But I knew I needed that feeling, and I got that feeling with Maya.
At this point Maya you’re in L.A. and Max is in Sweden. What kept the spark alive despite being thousands of miles apart?
Max: The hardest thing was to say goodbye when you don't know when you're going to see each other again. So we came up with this idea where every time we say goodbye, we should have the next trip booked. By the time I left L.A., Maya already had her flight booked to visit me. So there was always something to look forward to, and you knew when you'd see each other again.
Maya: I think what was refreshing about Max is that he wasn't what I expected. In my mind, from society and social media. I feel like especially Black women are trained to idealize a certain kind of relationship, tall, dark, handsome, and six figures. You know, he has to have all these things. But with Max, he was in transition. [I had to ask myself] where were you at his age? We all start from somewhere? We're all on a journey. But the fact that he was disciplined and had a strong work ethic. So it's really looking at the qualities because I'm looking for a life partner, not someone to date for just a couple of years.
How did you two navigate cultural differences and being in two very different phases of your career?
Maya: It's important to acknowledge social norms and the differences of what each person likes and dislikes and then having a conversation about what each person wants. So if you are dating outside of your culture, you have to understand differences and not to take things as an insult.
I remember Max didn't open a door for me. I knew he wasn't doing this to disrespect me. So I literally went on Google and looked into Swedish culture. And I found information explaining that Sweden is big on equality. In their culture, opening the door for a capable woman is an insult. So it's important to acknowledge your culture and their norms. As well as seeing your dynamics and having candid conversations about what you each want. And try to see through the person that you love. Look at the core values. Look at the fun you have together.
Engaged and making the decision to explore a life together was just the beginning for the pair that, on paper, was as far apart as the distance between the continents in the middle of them. Fervently wanting to close the miles between them, Max and Maya explored all of the options; Max even considered a student visa to attend UCLA to be with Maya. However, before a full plan could be realized, the pandemic hit, and the two had to immediately shift gears.
Ready for a change of pace from the fast-paced influencer lifestyle of Hollywood, Maya moved back home to Canada. From there, the two purchased a home in the place where love first blossomed, Sweden. Finally reunited, the two married, and the very next day following the ceremony, Maya had to leave the country because of visa requirements. But, she didn’t leave alone. Max was right beside his partner as they traveled from Canada and Mexico together until they could return to Sweden together.
Finally settled and in their home, the two merged their lives together with the birth of their child and the start of their relationship as partners.
How did you two create “Max and Maya Living” together? Especially with Maya’s already influential social media career?
Maya:[When we met] I was working on my YouTube channel, and because Max was getting into videography and filmmaking, it just seemed like the most convenient option is to work with your partner. So while we were living in Mexico together, I hired Max to shoot for me. But I just didn't like the dynamic of being his boss when we already have the layer of me being 12 years older.
In "Max and Maya," that was born out of the desire to create mutually. I wanted to see him grow, and my energy was kind of like waning at this point because I had been doing my YouTube channel, Shameless Maya, for ten years, and it was just more or less the same thing over and over again. I wanted to start something new and fresh that we could both be part of.
What was that transition like for you going from behind the camera to a partner on camera with Maya?
Max: I was never intimidated by Maya’s success, I was curious, and I went through insecurities, but I was never intimidated. At the time, I was an aspiring actor and videographer. Then, all of a sudden, I felt like I got so much for free just because it was Maya. But I had to accept I was still learning. Maya was a very great teacher, and I became a sponge. Eventually, we progressed into two different levels of expertise, and now we work as a team.
How do you balance the marriage of Max and Maya versus the coworker space of “Max and Maya” you occupy when creating together?
Max: The one thing that I find the hardest is to switch off work when you are working very close with your partner. Don't bring in the emotions from your private life into the workspace, meaning, if you're working on something, try to work towards some sort of neutral space where you can step in together and be like, okay, we'll deal with this private stuff at another time.
And really nourish the family identity together, like your privacy as a family. So when we're out, and we're actually vlogging. That's not family time per se. So make time for family without the cameras.
Why do you think your story as a couple, as coworkers, as social media influencers resonates with so many and continues to engage thousands?
Maya: I think it's because we are carving our own path and being honest with ourselves, and however that translates online is just a by-product. A lot of women especially subscribe to the ideals of someone else versus what they enjoy. I know what I want. I'm older. I take on what society calls masculine attributes. I don't find it that. I just know who I am and when I'm in a relationship. It's nice to not feel like I have to dumb down or ask for help.
Max: I'm a very emotional person, and this relationship allows me to fully embrace that and just be myself. I don't have to act as if I'm something else. I don't have to prove that I'm some sort of alpha male that has to provide according to traditional social norms.
Maya: Society tells you that when you're married and have a child, you're supposed to have stability. But for us, we've always been travelers. We've always been adventurers, so we've just adopted our daughter into our lifestyle. It's easy to lose yourself to your partner or your family. And I think it's important to hold on to your self-identity as well as sharing this new dynamic with children and partnership. In our channel, we just share who we are and try to inspire others to create the life that you want.
For more of Max and Maya, follow them on Instagram @mmhilding and @mayasworld. Subscribe to their YouTube channel here.
Featured image courtesy of Max and Maya Living