Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), otherwise known as Seasonal Depression or Winter Blues is a very real illness. It is not only about feeling flat and crappy, but also debilitating and all consuming. People who experience this type of depression can experience many symptoms, including the following:
- They feel depressed and/or anxious most of the time.
- They experience a loss of interest in most/all activities
- They withdraw from friends and family.
- They gain weight (overeating carbohydrates)
- They feel fatigued most/all of the time.
- They experience body aches and pains.
These symptoms significantly impact daily functioning. They make it almost impossible to get out of bed and face the world, and can impact work, relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and your outlook on life in general.
As we dive deeper into this cold winter, many of us experience a plunge in our mood and energy. The drop in cognitive health seems to be almost parallel with the weather, hence being referred to Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Blues.
As the days grow shorter, nights become longer, and days become colder, you may find yourself with limited activities during wintertime.
The NHS says there is scientific reasons as to why people can experience SAD, including shorter days of daylight, as our internal body clock can be disrupted. On NHS’ website*, Alison Kerry, from the mental health charity MIND, explains: “With SAD, one theory is that light entering the eye causes changes in hormone levels in the body. In our bodies, light functions to stop the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, making us wake up.
“It’s thought that SAD sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression.”
NIH**-funded researchers have been studying SAD for more than 30 years, and have learned about possible causes and found treatments that seem to help most people, one being light therapy which is said to help 70% of the affected population. Still, much remains unknown about these winter-related shifts in mood.
Here are a number of things you can do to help ease SAD, or the “winter blues”
🔅Get outdoors during daylight
🔅Purchase a day lamp
🔅Take a short walk
🔅Make sure you are getting enough quality sleep
🔅Arrange Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to learn new coping behaviours
🔅Eat well, be aware of healthier options
🔅Book an excursion, or something else to look forward to.
The good thing is that winter is not forever and, the moment Spring returns, SAD symptoms will begin to fade. SAD sufferers should remind themselves of the temporary nature of the condition, as well as any other forthcoming plans that may keep you more focused on the good, rather than darker days.
If you are struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or low moods, please reach out to your GP.