This time of year can be magical and joyous and sparkly and happy but for a lot of people, including myself in the past, it can also be miserable and depressing and sad. Literally SAD. I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder which is a very real condition which can affect anyone in the Winter months, when daylight is shorter, darkness creeps in at 4 p.m and ultimately can leave people feeling, well, miserable.
The NHS website states that SAD is often caused when the affects of sunlight and daylight aren’t apparent in parts of the brain called the hypothalamus and causes it to stop working properly. This affects the product of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy and is more apparent in people with SAD) and serotonin (themood hormone, which will be lower in people with SAD). Your genes and circadian rhythm (body clock) can also have an impact. Wow, didn’t think you’d be getting a science lesson today did ya?!
I have an odd experience of SAD because mine showed up the same year I developed anxiety. So thinking back now, it could have been a mixture of both or it could have been due to the fact I couldn’t leave the house because I was too anxious and ill, therefore, that led me to develop SAD because I wasn’t getting any natural light or sun. I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t seeing anyone. The symptoms of SAD are similar to those of depression: low moods, loss of interest in things, feelings of worthlessness, sleeping more than usual etc. so it’s difficult to differentiate between whether you just have SAD or whether you have depression.
But as always, it’s important to go and see a doctor if you think you’re suffering from either and can’t cope.SAD can’t be cured by lighting a few candles and having a bubble bath. Although those things may make your environment a little nicer or help temporarily, SAD is a real issue that needs to be treated as seriously as depression does. There’s no cure-for-all with SAD and as all mental health conditions, things work differently for everyone. Here are some tips on how to get through the Winter months if they’re getting you down. I’m not a qualified professional, I’m just sharing what helps me. Take it or leave it.
1. Make your indoor “space” somewhere you want to be: So when it’s dark and dingy, you know you have a nice, safe, happy room to be in. This is an instance where nice candles might be useful!
2. Try and get outside at least once a day: when it’s day time. This might be difficult but even if it means going for a walk during your lunch break if that’s the only time available to you to get outside when it’s daylight.
3. Keep your room / house well-lit: Although dim lamps and fairy-lights are cute, if you suffer with SAD, the more light around, the better so maybe switch to a higher voltage bulb during Winter.
4. Practice self-care: And do more of what you enjoy and makes you happy. Have that bubble bath, if it’s going to help for an hour. Take more time to cook your favourite warm, hearty meals, watching your favourite shows, reading books, exercising and spending time with loved ones.
5. Make evening plans: So you don’t associate evenings with dark, dreary, cold Winter nights. Cinema dates, going out for meals or even just for a casual evening drive with your favourite songs blaring. Make dark nights a positive time of day.
6. Take up a new hobby: Something that will take up some time and that you enjoy that can totally immerse you throughout the Winter months.
7. Write things down: Cliché as heck, I know but writing things down really does help. Either a quick sentence how you’re feeling or elaborate paragraphs – just get those feelings out!
8. Make plans for the following year: Especially in Spring and Summer. This will give you something to look forward to and remind you that Winter and the dark days and nights are only temporary.
9. Talk to someone: If you’re struggling, talking to someone about how you’re feeling will always help. Friends, family or if you want to confine in someone anonymous, call the Samaritans.
10. See a doctor: If you’re really struggling and all other options have failed then your port of call is the doctor. Don’t worry about wasting their time either because they will have seen a ton of people all experiencing SAD symptoms.