seasonal affective disorder

Learning to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Whilst many of us have taken a sigh of relief at the news of spring, some of us may still be left reeling after the past few months, which have been nothing short of depressing when you consider the ongoing pandemic paired with the shorter days. And let’s not forget, we still have another couple of weeks before the clocks go forward again, so it comes as no surprise that 1 in 20 people in the UK have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

SAD is related to the lack of daylight during the Autumn and Winter months which causes a decline in serotonin and melatonin production (the hormones associated with regulating mood, appetite and sleep). It is usually characterised by fatigue, irritability, persistent low mood, binge eating as well as a lack of excitement or interest in life which often leads to oversleeping – sound familiar? Whilst there’s no cure for Seasonal Affective Disorder, there are some ways to alleviate the impact it has on you, so you don’t need to confine yourself to hibernation! Here’s how:

Let the light in

I know, it’s not exactly easy to get some natural sunlight during this time of year, especially if you’re working with shifts starting early during the dark mornings and finishing in the pitch black evenings. But, you can easily go for a brisk walk outside during your lunch break giving your mind some much needed time out alongside some exercise in the daylight! Also, if possible, consider working near a window to maximise your exposure to light, or even better, if you have the means, invest in a specialised SAD lamp, which has proven to combat many SAD associated symptoms experienced by individuals.

Eat well

It’s normal to indulge a little here and there, and especially during the colder months, but what negatively impacts our mental wellbeing is binging on food groups which are not particularly great for our health. This can quickly lead to a spiral of never ending comfort eating because depleted serotonin levels crave instant boosts from starchy, carb filled or fatty foods which will only leave you with a bigger energy slump later on, intensifying your SAD related symptoms. Plant based foods are fantastic to not only energise you but also give your body the much needed nourishment it needs. So, before you reach for that packet of biscuits, why not try some crunchy carrot sticks with a houmous dip instead?

Don’t bottle it up

This is pretty much a no-brainer, however those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder often feel withdrawn leading to little or no social interaction with others. Therefore, it’s essential to have a strong support network to help you feel heard, otherwise it can quickly end up a in a vicious cycle! It’s also important to normalise conversations about mental health, because continuing to do so can help to destigmatise talks on the topic, allowing others around you to gain the confidence to open up about their own struggles. If talking to your nearest and dearest is not something you’re comfortable with doing, then book an appointment with your GP so that you can both draw up a suitable plan. There are so many mental health services available to help you overcome any concerns you have associated with your mental wellbeing, such as holistic therapies (CBT) or medicinal solutions (antidepressants). Just remember, your doctor is there to help you in times like these.

Self care is not selfish

Putting some time aside to simply relax and unwind can do wonders for both your physical and mental wellbeing. The best thing is that self care can be as affordable or as expensive as you like! Simply keeping hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water and consciously savouring each drop let’s you live in the moment and slow down, whilst doing 10 minutes of stretching exercises with complete focus every day is a great way to aid brain function and improve motivation levels. On the other hand, if you’d like to go all out and take some friends along, then why not book a spa day?

On a final note, it’s important to recognise that it all boils down to understanding what works best for you, so be sure to keep note of what helps to improve your SAD symptoms and if you can make time to incorporate it into your routine on the regular.

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1 Comment

  1. Brilliant tips! I certainly struggle with SAD. Luckily the weather is warmer now, but I need to prepare better for next winter. It’s the cold, too.

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