Ain’t No Sunshine


Hang On Sloopy, Summer Within Reach

Photo by Pixabay on

Punxsutawney Phil certainly got it right this year. He saw his shadow on February 2, and as predicted, six-plus gloomy and record-breaking cold weeks of winter ensued.

Days Without Sunlight

Sunshine eluded us for days—even weeks—at a time in the Midwest where I live and elsewhere in landlocked areas of the United States. In Chicago from February through March, The National Weather Service clocked only 11 days of full sunshine. What the Hell?! 

Panic in the Garden

And on top of that, record-breaking cold brought multiple bouts of frost and snow that stemmed Spring blooms and pushed landscaping schedules back like dominos falling. Gardeners are still in a tizzy.

Since ringing in the New Year, the water-cooler talk among my fellow exercisers at my health club has been a lot about the seemingly endless days without sun and warmth and how much it adversely affects our motivation and happiness. I often skipped workouts to stay in bed or stream hours of shows from my couch, while sulking in the grey. 

We’re SAD

Lack of sunshine results in sadness, depression and anxiety for many individuals, according to Healthline.

Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD). This is a form of depression triggered by the changing seasons.


And ironically, the anecdote is SUN!

Cleveland Clinic suggests getting 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight each day to boost serotonin levels. 

Can you imagine the sight of us deprived of our biggest star for long periods, seeking out slivers of yellow rays like zombies emerging from caves? 

During our sunshine apocalypse, the amount of diagnosis and treatments of depression by mental health practitioners continues increase, according to Forbes HEALTH

Pyschotherapy Remedies During the Dark Days

According to Greta Nielsen, MA, LCPC and co-owner and Pyschotherapist at Illuminate Therapy & Wellness, “One of the best predictors for your ability to maintain your emotional, mental, and physical wellness during the winter months is to keep the routines and habits you have for the rest of the seasons. Exercise, healthy eating, sleep hygiene, staying connected and engaged in your relationships and roles; be it paid or volunteer work, and having a relaxation practice all contribute to one’s overall wellness.”

Mental Health Month

Fittingly, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has declared May 1-31 as Mental Health Awareness Month.  Visit their website for resources, including a toolkit that sheds light on mental health issues and how to spread the word. 

Photo by Philip Warp on

My friends, we’re in the final stretch of our lingering winter and abysmal Spring. With May here, we’re inching closer to the summer season and more daily sunlight!

Let the Sunshine In! 

Music Title Credits


From Holiday Cheer to Health Despair


Ho, ho, hope

Photo by Gabriela Palai on

It’s concerning that the height of the mainstream holiday season—traditionally a boon for celebration and good cheer—is becoming a stage for mental, emotional and physical health. 

Do you notice an increasing narrative on combating stress, anxiety and depression, and a steady stream of content calling out warning signs, remedies and support resources related to “holiday distress?” In my neighborhood, The Chicago Department of Public Health posted a resource on “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay During the Holidays” on Facebook

And then there’s the tragic news of the sudden loss of beloved celebrity, husband and father Stephen tWitch Boss from death by suicide that has generated countless tributes of shock and sadness and sparked conversations on the urgency to address the mental health crisis.

The CDC reports that in 2020, 45,979 people died by suicide in the United States. That’s 1 person every 11 minutes. Further, the agency notes that 12.2M adults seriously thought about suicide; 3.2M made a plan; and 1.2M attempted suicide. There’s also a disproportionate rate of suicide among certain ethnic groups with the highest suicide rates among non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Natives and non-Hispanic Whites. The suicide rate among males in 2020 was 4 times higher than the rate among females. And people ages 85 and older have the highest rates of suicide.1

Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere, and at any time. But it is not inevitable. There is hope.

U.S. Department of Health and human services

I applaud the loud and persistent voice giving attention to an ongoing untreated epidemic wreaking havoc on joy and happiness year-round let alone during the end of year holidays. But are we listening to the cries for help, seeing the warning signs of distress and taking the prescribed action to protect those in need, including ourselves. How can we make time and create room to deal with mental health issues with ourselves and others when we’re busy with holiday shopping, parties and the clock ticking on finishing projects and resolving unattended goals before the yearend? The causes and solutions become intertwined and blurred. 

The scope of this condition ranges from the overwhelming pressure of additional socializing, increased spending—oftentimes unbudgeted and spending more time with family—sometimes estranged, to the extreme pain of fear, fatigue, conflict, depression, anxiety and ultimately the feeling of inescapable gloom.

For most of my life, I’ve been dealing with the struggles of my own mental and emotional health. From overlooked childhood anxiety and self-esteem difficulties and young adult imposter syndrome to disregarded postpartum depression and now diagnosed chronic depression, I’ve been combatting my illness through therapy, medication and sheer self-preservation. Yet it’s exhausting and often times hopeless. And there it is: hopelessness. The state of plummeting into despair and the doom of surrender. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Suicide can touch anyone, anywhere, and at any time. But it is not inevitable. There is hope.”2 The Department runs SAMSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

My Resources

What can we do? I’m no expert, so I’ll offer some of the ways I cope and resources I rely on:

  • Say it out loud; no one needs to be listening, but try to find someone who will, too.
  • Write it down, journal, make a private video or recording.
  • Consult your medical professionals.
  • Keep an eye out on social media for content and conversations. Many users do post credible resources and messages. Make sure to vet these. Here are a few I found:
  • And then there’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 988

Sending you love, compassion and hope during the holidays and all year around. 


1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Suicide Data and Statistics

2The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Suicide Prevention Resources