As the days grow shorter, and the sun’s warm embrace seems all but a distant memory, many of us experience a shift in our mood. For some, this seasonal change can lead to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.
It’s time to shed some light on what SAD is, its signs and symptoms, and simple changes we can make to help alleviate its effects.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, typically occurring during the fall and winter months when the days get shorter and natural sunlight diminishes. This condition is believed to be linked to the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, and changes in melatonin and serotonin levels due to decreased sunlight exposure.
Signs and Symptoms of SAD
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of SAD is the first step towards finding ways to cope with it. Some common indicators include:
- Low Energy: Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy is a hallmark of SAD. You may find it difficult to get out of bed and perform everyday tasks.
- Mood Changes: Increased irritability, anxiety, and sadness are common emotional symptoms. You may also withdraw from social activities and experience a general sense of hopelessness.
- Oversleeping and Overeating: A strong desire to sleep excessively and cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods are common. This can lead to weight gain, which, in turn, can worsen the depression.
- Loss of Interest: A decreased interest in activities you once enjoyed can be a sign of SAD. It’s as if the things that once brought you joy no longer hold their allure.
- Difficulty Concentrating: Trouble focusing and making decisions can be an issue during SAD episodes.
Simple Changes to Alleviate SAD
While SAD can feel overwhelming, don’t despair – there are simple changes you can make to alleviate its symptoms and improve your overall mental wellbeing.
- Light Therapy: One of the most effective treatments for SAD is light therapy. Exposing yourself to bright, artificial light, preferably with a full-spectrum lightbox, for around 30 minutes each morning can help regulate your body’s internal clock.
- Get Outside: Try to spend some time outdoors during daylight hours, even when it’s overcast and you only have a short amount of time. Natural light can boost your mood and help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
- Exercise Regularly: Physical activity can be a powerful tool against SAD. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which can help combat feelings of depression.
- Diet and Nutrition: Be mindful of what you eat. Opt for a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit your intake of sugary and processed foods.
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporating mindfulness practices and meditation into your daily routine can help manage stress and improve your mental well-being.
- Socialise: Even when you don’t feel like it, try to stay socially active. Connect with friends and family, or consider joining support groups. Sharing your feelings and experiences can be comforting and beneficial.
- Consider Professional Help: If your symptoms are severe or persist for an extended period, it’s essential to seek help from a mental health professional. They can offer guidance, counseling, or medication if necessary.
Remember, you’re not alone in experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder. Many people face similar challenges during the dark, cold months of winter.
By recognizing the signs and symptoms and implementing these simple changes into your routine, you can take control of SAD and bring some much-needed sunshine back into your life. Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends, family, or healthcare providers for support if you feel you need it.
Looking for Support in your Workplace?
Here at Boost Wellbeing – Hands on Health UK we know how important it is to keep your mind and body healthy.
Get in touch with us to learn how we can help you and your colleagues feel healthy, happy and productive.
Why not take a look at our other services, many of which can be delivered safely either in person or remotely.
Healthy Best Wishes – The Boost Wellbeing Team