woman depressed in winter
Health & Fitness

Seasonal Affective Disorder: How Can You Combat It?

Do you get depressed during the winter? Do you find it difficult to maintain your mental health when the days become shorter; is it difficult just to get out of bed in the morning?

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. Symptoms of SAD usually occur in the fall and winter, in the form of a deep inner sadness that most people find it difficult to explain.

Skeptics may dismiss this as a harmless case of the “blues,” yet this condition is real and has been diagnosed by experts.
As a result, this depression is linked to the changing of seasons and affects an increasing number of people every year.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

When we get into autumn, the nights get longer, the days become darker and it’s FREEZING all the time. After a long summer the swift change of season can feel jarring, and it can affect our mental health in a number of different ways.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mental health condition that affects around 1 in 15 people in the US every year between the months of September and April. The symptoms are very similar to depression, including low mood, helplessness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, lethargy, loss of interest in activities and sleeping for longer or having trouble with sleep. Most people suffer with SAD symptoms during the winter months, giving it the nickname ‘winter depression’, but a small amount of people experience depressive feelings in the summer months, and feel better in the winter.

If symptoms persist throughout the year, it is more likely that you are suffering from depression; in this case you should go and see your GP as there is a lot of help available.

Read also: 5 Supplements That Help Fight Depression

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

snow outside window

It is not fully known what causes SAD, but it is thought to be down to a reduced exposure to sunlight (which is why it is more common in the winter months). A lack of sunlight and vitamin D can affect parts of the body such as:

  • The production of melatonin which is the hormone that makes you sleepy; an increase or an imbalance of this can make you extra sleepy and lethargic
  • The production of serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. It is well-known that low serotonin levels can lead to depression
  • The body’s internal clock, which helps to regulate sleep patterns, can be disrupted when the hours of sunlight changes.

Some people are more sensitive to SAD due to genetics.

How to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

woman looking through windowPeople with Seasonal Affective Disorder may feel the need to sleep a lot. They may also crave high-fat, high-salt, and high-sugar foods. While these behaviors may make you feel better in the short term, they may actually make you feel worse in the long run and may not make the emotional disorder go away.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that mental health and self-care is something very important to me. I’ve suffered with feelings of depression and I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself when you’re feeling low, so if you suffer seasonally, the best thing to do is to be ready and prepared for when the time comes. Talk to a loved one and make sure they know that you may need extra support over the winter months, so that you’re not alone.

Take time for yourself

As September comes round, start by making sure you have lots of things planned that are for you – make plans with friends, stock up on bath products, blankets and lots of books. However you like to spend your time, make sure you have options so that you’re not stuck feeling blue with nothing to do.

Get good, quality sleep

As our body clock tends to get a little confused in winter time, it can affect our sleep patterns. Too much or too little sleep can be detrimental to our overall health, and can cause feelings of depression. So, it is vital that you get good quality sleep! It is suggested that the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning.

Now, for years I have struggled with this; getting up is hard for me whatever I’m doing, BUT, going to bed at the same time every night honestly does work. Your body will get used to it and it will help to regulate your hormones. Invest in a high quality mattress and pillow and you’ll find it even easier to get a good night’s sleep.

Get some exercise

Did you know that physical activity is as good for your body as it is for your mind? It triggers the release of endorphins, anti-stress hormones that are very useful for boosting your morale during your SAD episode! Unless you have a specific medical condition, you can consider any sport, from jogging to downhill skiing. Of course, you don’t have to face the cold weather: exercise cycling is also good… The main thing is to exercise and do something you enjoy.

Get outside as much as you can

One of the biggest things that used to bother me was going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, and not getting any time outdoors. Plan to go on walks at the weekend, and head outside on your lunch break. Not only will this increase the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to, but it really helps your mental health to experience nature.

Consider outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or skating to help offset the negative mood effects of longer nights and darker days. Look at the changing colors of the leaves and appreciate the environment like you would in the summertime.

Read also: Why Carry on Exercising Outdoors in Winter?

Go to see your doctor

Sometimes, you can run yourself a bath, spend time with friends and practice yoga as much as you like, but you still feel absolute pants. If what you’re feeling seems more serious, then go to your doctor and ask for help. They may be able to help you with talking therapies or medication. You do not have to suffer alone.

Do you suffer with SAD? I’d love to hear your tips!

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Kara Bout It