As the days get colder and shorter, many of us may experience a shift in our mood – but could you be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder? By the end of this blog post, you will know what the signs of SAD are as well as simple strategies you can use to help cope with the symptoms.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression which people experience seasonally. It was not recognised until 1984 and there is still a lot of misunderstanding around it. For example, whilst for many people, it is the onset of winter that triggers their symptoms, some people experience SAD in summer. SAD is not just feeling down for a few days in winter, the effects can be debilitating and last for months.
Do I have Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Lots of people can have changes in mood relating to the seasons, but if you are experiencing some of the symptoms below and think you may have SAD, it may be worth speaking to your GP:
- persistent low mood
- lack of energy
- struggling to concentrate
- lack of interest in things you would usually enjoy
- sleeping too much or too little compared to usual
- changes in your appetite
- lower sex drive
Read more about the symptoms of SAD on the NHS website.
5 Top Tips to Help Seasonal Affective Disorder:
1. Know that you are not alone
You may feel like withdrawing and isolating yourself if you are experiencing SAD. However, SAD affects an estimated 2 million people in the UK each year so know that you are not the only one going through this. It may help to read or listen to other people’s experiences with SAD – like Sarah’s in this podcast.
2. Make the most of natural light
Maximising your exposure to natural light, even on cloudy days, can help as it boosts your Vitamin D levels and inhibits melatonin production (a hormone which makes us sleepy and lethargic). Around noon is the best time to do this and this could be by sitting outside in a park or garden or just by a window.
Exercise releases endorphins which trigger positive feelings and can help combat the effects of SAD. This doesn’t have to be an intense workout – you could combine making the most of natural light and exercise by going for a lunchtime walk.
4. Talk to someone
If you are lacking energy, it can be really difficult to motivate yourself to go outside or do exercise. It can help to use your support network and go for a walk with a friend. Socialising with those we trust and care about can help boost our mood. It may also help to speak to your GP or a counsellor who can help you find ways to cope.
5. Be kind to yourself
One person’s experience of SAD will be different to another and different things may help to relieve the symptoms. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, make time to relax and get the rest you need. This may mean rearranging activities that might be stressful or difficult and that’s OK.
You are not alone in experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder and there are steps you can take to support yourself. If you are interested in finding out more about how counselling can help, please get in touch: