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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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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A dead bedroom can kill any relationship. In all long-term, committed relationships, couples experience various phases, from the initial passion to a more complex and enduring connection. Yet, as time passes, sex may decrease, which introduces an issue often referred to as "bed death."
According to Advance Psychology Partners, 'bed death' occurs when individuals in a committed relationship experience a decline in the frequency of sexual activity and fall short of the desires of both or either partner. It is sometimes labeled a "sexless relationship" due to the infrequency of sex. In the U.S., an estimated 20 million people find themselves in such relationships.
This shift is a significant change for couples. Let’s face it: no one wants to be in a sexless marriage or relationship. But how can couples effectively confront the impact of fading physical intimacy on the overall health of their enduring partnership?
"I have found that many factors influence one's desire to dive, and it is often not a majority of just one thing. Most people assume that if they don't desire [sex], they are no longer physically attracted, but in my experience, that has little to do with it most of the time," explained Brittanni Young, LMFT, CST.
"Some of the heavy contributors that I see most often include excessive goal orientation towards orgasm, people not prioritizing their own sexuality, and the landfill of ‘should’s’ that develop from toxic sexual scripts created long ago in upbringing," she added.
Furthermore, these issues are not exclusive to any particular orientation, but it does manifest differently.
Young is a licensed marriage and family therapist, sexologist, and board-certified sex therapist who practices in Georgia and Florida. She has worked in the sexology field for over a decade. Young helps couples and individuals looking to get through challenges of all facets facing sexuality and intimacy, such as desire mismatch, over-compulsion, and dysfunctions. She recently launched a deck of intimacy connection cards called "Show Me Your Cards." Young is working on another product that helps teach children to consent and negotiate appropriate touch. She sat down with xoNecole to discuss what causes the decline in the bedroom, the myth of 'lesbian bed death,' and recommendations on overcoming "bed death."
The Decline In Intimacy
Intimacy often dwindles within relationships, a phenomenon triggered by various factors such as stress, the insidious monotony of routine, and the toxicity of unresolved conflicts, to name a few. While couples manage daily life, exchanging intimate desires and concerns may take a backseat. Sadly, this gradually erodes the closeness once shared in the relationship.
"Typically, the first thing I do when working with a couple on desire challenges is rule out medical causes by referring them to their primary care physician or other provider they are working with," Young shared. "There are times when unmanaged or mismanaged conditions factor into low desire levels. Also, many medications can wreak havoc on keeping desire levels up, such as antidepressants, SSRIs, anti-anxiety, and blood pressure medications, to name a few."
Jeff Bergen/ Getty Images
"Next, I look at the state of the relationship. If there is dissatisfaction in the relationship, then it definitely affects how close and intimate one wants to be to another. There are also plenty of individual factors one can bring into the equation, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, feelings of shame or guilt around one's own sexuality, and external life stressors that can get in the way. I find that life stressors can be a big one for folks, as once you get in the habit of not prioritizing sex, it tends to stick," she added.
Fortunately, there are ways to prevent "bed death." It can involve prioritizing your wants and open communication about sexual needs.
"What tends to be effective for all couples is taking an inventory of how satisfied they are with their sexual behaviors and engagement. Being truthful in this vein can be the start of unlocking inhibitions that can keep you from seeking out and being genuinely vulnerable in intimate spaces," Young explained. "Next, I suggest opening up lines of communication around these truths. When people assume that nothing can be done, hope is lost."
The Myth Of 'Lesbian Bed Death'
The notion of "lesbian bed death" perpetuates a simplistic and inaccurate stereotype about the sexual dynamics within lesbian relationships. Contrary to the myth, the experience of a decline in intimacy is not universal among lesbian couples. The diverse spectrum of relationships among women challenges this oversimplified narrative, emphasizing that the complexities of sexual dynamics extend beyond stereotypical assumptions.
"The notion of 'lesbian bed death' is based on a research study done by Pepper Schwartz in 1983 that found that lesbian couplings fell behind in sexual frequency compared to heterosexual and gay male couplings," Young revealed.
"Several other studies [after] have replicated these findings but give very little information about sexual satisfaction. Despite there being more research needed overall in the sexuality field, more recent research did find that when it comes to the length of sexual encounters, lesbian couples had the longest duration of encounters. To that end, sexual quality over quantity is a better marker of satisfaction, and that is what I pay most attention to in my work. With that said, dissatisfaction can happen in all couplings over time," the sexologist continued.
Factors influencing reduced intimacy among lesbian couples may include communication challenges, societal pressures, and individual variations in libido. Menstruation can also play a role, with some couples navigating discomfort or hormonal changes during this period.
"There are certainly some nuances that come into play with lesbian couples that differ from heterosexual or other-oriented couples. As I stated earlier, physiological factors can factor into the rise and fall of libido. The hormone fluctuations that come from menstruation and menopause can impact desire levels, and it is double present in lesbian couples. Another nuance is the lack of a sexual script from society on lesbian sexual behavior. There are patriarchal roots to sexual research, which have created our societal norms that tend to leave out anyone who isn't heterosexual," Young stated.
Overcoming The Challenges
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While 'bed death' challenges couples, solutions are within reach. By identifying and addressing the underlying causes, couples can rekindle the flame of intimacy and ensure a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
"In the words of Esther Perel, another sexual professional in the field, 'love enjoys knowing everything about you; desire needs mystery.' I recommend keeping it in the front of your mind, prioritizing, and keeping it interesting. Be open to learning more about your own sexuality every day, as well as your partner. You are always growing; what worked for you 20 years ago may not be the same today. Stay curious with one another and be open to exploring new ways to pleasure. You deserve it," Young said.
For instance, Young advised that couples should "keep sexual encounters light and playful." And not be afraid to introduce new elements, such as toys.
"Touch often in ways that are consensual and feel safe! I made 'Show Me Your Cards' to serve this purpose specifically. Just because you do not feel in the mood to go all the way does not mean you aren't in the mood to hold hands, exchange body massages, or dance together. Connecting often in any physical form, as long as it feels pleasurable, still counts as 'being in the mood,'" she said.
Overcoming the hurdles of "bed death" and debunking myths surrounding 'lesbian bed death' offers a unique perspective for couples grappling with the difficulties of sustaining a connection. Learning the proper ways to work through a sexless relationship can help foster a healthier, more fulfilling relationship.
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