Seasonal Affective Disorder
“I am no different than the weather,
The planets or the trees;
For there do not always have to be reasons
For the seasons turning inside of me.”
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
It’s pretty much in the title. It is a change in mood related to the change in seasons. For some people this can occur through the transition of Summer to Autumn. For others the summer season can be difficult. It’s an emotional and sometimes physical response to the change in weather. SAD can leave people feeling sluggish, low, more tearful and anxious. Autumn represents a lot of changes in the environment around us. The temperature drops, we witness the loss of leaves from trees and we have shorter days. Some of us leave home in the dark and return from work in the dark.
What are the symptoms of SAD?
Like with most things the experience is going to be unique to the individual but there are a few things that can signify you may be affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder;
Feeling irritable or anxious
Lacking in energy
Not enjoying life like you were before
Sleeping for longer, during the day and feeling less alert in the mornings
Having low mood, persistently since the change in season
Craving certain types of food like carbohydrates or foods high in sugar
Feeling worthless, guilty and hopeless
What can help you if you’re experiencing SAD?
I think the first step is acknowledging you feel different. Follow that with being willing to make some changes to your lifestyle to meet your needs through the season. If you’re able to, get outside for a walk / cycle ride each day. Even a 15 minute walk, before / after work or on your lunch hour can boost your mood. This way you’re getting some exercise and natural light in one hit. If it’s a sunny day try to get even more time outside.
Go to bed earlier, if you’re noticing you need more sleep get more sleep. At weekends if you have time take a nap. Napping gives psychological and physical benefits including improving mood (read more here). Hopefully you have ways of managing stress that you do all throughout the year. You might want to make these things more of a priority throughout this period. Taking time out to do nothing is important. Doing some gentle mindful exercise such as yoga. Creating some artwork or listening to music can help to lower stress levels. Journaling could help you release some of the feelings and thoughts you have. Eat well by increasing the amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Try not to eat too many high carb foods like pasta and potatoes. Some people find taking a vitamin D and B12 helps.
What if how I feel needs something more?
Seeing a counsellor can offer a space to increase your self-awareness which can lead to a greater ability to cope. Having someone you can talk to freely about how you are can support you through the difficult times. There could be things that need speaking about that make the darker, colder times of year more difficult to manage. Light boxes and light therapy can be helpful to some people. I used to have an alarm that gradually got lighter, beginning 30 minutes before my alarm. This meant when my alarm went off the room was filled with light. “Without sufficient levels of morning light our bodies circadian rhythms are not triggered and our body fails to produce the hormones required to feel wide awake.” (www.sad.org.uk). If you feel you are being significantly effected please visit your GP to find out what else could help.
Want to know more?