Seasonal Affective Disorder: What it is and What you can do About it?
It’s that time of year again—a time of cool breezes, coloured leaves, and regeneration. Autumn and Winter are exciting times… Unless you suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you struggle with winter depression, this time of year is not filled with joy and anticipation. Instead, you probably feel like hiding under the covers until spring arrives in a couple of months…
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Everyone has the blues now and then. But SAD is a depressive state that occurs seasonally, year after year, usually in the Autumn and Winter. If you suffer from SAD, you may feel perfectly normal during the spring and summer months, but starting around April, May or June, symptoms begin showing up for some.
Because this type of depression comes and goes with the seasons, you may wonder if it is all in your head. It isn’t! This is a real condition and can have a devastating impact on your life.
Researchers still don’t know the exact cause of SAD, but there are some factors that seem to be involved, and they involve the decreased amount of sunlight that Autumn and Winter bring.
Melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that impacts mood and sleep. As the seasons change, your melatonin levels can fluctuate and may cause feelings of depression.
Serotonin: When the amount of sunlight drops, so can your serotonin levels. Since this chemical helps you have feelings of well-being and happiness, not having enough of it can cause your mood to drop.
Internal clock (circadian rhythm): Some scientists think that decreased sunlight disrupts your normal rhythms of wakefulness and sleepiness. The result can be sad and depressed feelings.
What are the Symptoms of -
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
SAD will often manifest itself as feelings of continuous sadness or depression. You may feel as though you cannot get enough sleep—struggling to get out of bed in the morning, feeling drowsy during the day, and going to bed earlier than you usually do.
Your energy and concentration may also run low, and this can affect your productivity at work and at home.
Of course, not having the energy to ‘get things done,’ only leads to frustration and more feelings of depression. You may also notice weight gain.
Typically, SAD sufferers will generally crave foods high in simple carbohydrates (sugary etc) and can gain between 2 and 13 kg’s each year.
Finally, your social life may suffer. If you are depressed, you just won’t enjoy being around others as much as you used to. This can turn into social withdrawal which can make your feelings of depression and sadness even worse.
Now for the Good News –
Ways to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)!
If you think that you may be one of the millions of people who are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, you will be happy to know that you have many treatment options available, these are just a few ideas. Try experimenting with different treatments until you find one or a combination that works for you, it's not a one size fits all thing:
Light therapy: Up to 85% of winter depression sufferers are helped by simply sitting under the natural sun or a therapy light. The bright light stabilizes the out-of-balance chemicals in your body, helping you to feel less depressed and more like yourself. The best therapy lights are those between 2,500 and 10,000 lux.
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D is frequently referred to as “The Sunshine Vitamin” because your body produces it when exposed to sunlight. In fact, just 20-30 minutes of sunlight will produce 10,000 – 50,000 IUs of Vitamin D. Why is this important? Vitamin D is actually a hormone that has important roles in supporting a healthy heart, cellular replication, immune system, mood & mental health, muscles, blood sugar levels, and more! Supplementation can be used with guidance as well as a supplement to the sunlight.
Exercise: Exercise is a powerful player in the fight against SAD. As much as you may not feel like it to start with, when you exercise, your body releases “feel good” chemicals called endorphins during and after the exercise. These chemicals cause you to feel happy, confident and bring about a feeling of well-being. The elated feelings that endorphins bring are comparable to the feelings that morphine and heroin create according to research. To release endorphins, you will need to sustain your workout for about 30 minutes. (Bonus tip: Move your workouts outside into nature and/or the sunlight for even more benefits!) I just got back from a brisk walk in nature and after spending the last week suffering with COVID at home, I feel so much better now! I didn't feel like going prior, but now I'm so glad I did!
Dawn Simulators: Unlike the spring months, in which the light of dawn and dusk changes gradually, the winter months bring a much more abrupt change of light. This may be one of the aggravators of SAD. Try a dawn simulator. These appliances can be programmed, much like an alarm clock, to gradually brighten your room each morning before you wake up. Some SAD sufferers have had great success with dawn simulators.
Focus: Focus on what you can control and not what you cannot control! Can you control the seasons? NO! Can you control what you do in the seasons? YES! Focus on the small things, focus on rejuvenating, focus on rebuilding yourself, focus on learning, focus on the joys in your life, focus on the Kaizen principle to compound the small steps. Not sure what Kaizen means, just reply and I'll share the meaning with you.
Inspiration: Surround yourself with an inspiring environment and with inspiring people! As much as it can suck sometimes, check-in with those around you and lean on your support network. Even if you feel like you don’t have one, you do! You just may not be able to see it at the moment!
You are not alone if you are beginning to feel depressed with the shortened days that we experience during the colder months.
Experiment with some of the options above and especially start exercising.
Before you know it, the days will begin lengthening out again!
Let me know...
Have you or someone you know suffered with this before?
What do you find works for you to get through the cooler months?
Just hit reply or comment below and let me know!
Dedicated to the health & fitness of our community!
If you would like to come along for a FREE nature bushwalk that is open to you and your friends, just reply with the word "WALK" in the text and I'll get all the info across to you like the date, time and location of our next group walk.