Do you often feel low and depressed during the cold winter months? You may be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD is a type of depression related to the changing of the seasons, normally experienced during the colder, darker winter months. SAD can be experienced in the summer months for some also, and can come in mild or severe form.
Some factors that influence SAD can be your biological clock shifting with the reduction in sunlight. The darker days can also increase melatonin levels. Melatonin levels cause us to feel less alert and want to sleep. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates mood.
SAD is four times more likely to be suffered by women than men according to psychologytoday.com
What are the symptoms?
Cravings of food high in carbohydrates and sugar.
High levels of fatigue
Sensitive to social situations and rejection
Feeling hopeless or helpless
How can I reduce the symptoms of SAD?
Go outside when it is light and spend time in nature, even if it is just on your lunch break.
Make sure your rooms have enough natural light in them.
Take Vitamin D tablets daily (Check with doctor first)
Sunlight lamps or Light boxes. These mimic sunshine and are much brighter than regular light bulbs. They are very powerful and intense, and don’t add to your daily Vitamin D dosage, but they replicate the sunlight missing during the winter months. They can increase serotonin release which affects your mood and reduce melatonin levels which make you sleepy. (Must have white or blue light and be at least 10,000 lux to ensure it is stronger than a normal lightbulb.)
Purchase an alarm clock that stimulates dawn and gradually increases in light intensity.
Try to keep to a routine and wake up at the same time every day to avoid the temptation to stay in bed
Exercise – especially if you can get outside. This will help release ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain.
Make plans if this is what you need. Cancel plans if you need time to yourself to rest. Don’t be afraid to say no to things.
Use your support network
Mindfulness and relaxation
Express gratitude each day verbally or through a written journal. Try to list at least 3 positive things that happened in your day, or all of the things you are grateful for.
Take a winter holiday if this is possible for you
Ensure you are managing your diet. SAD can make you crave heavy carbohydrates so being mindful of what you’re eating can help.
Visit your GP