Seasonal Affective Disorder: What is it and how can you combat it?

Do you feel blue during the winter months? Do you find yourself struggling with your mental health when the days are shorter; is it tough just to get up in the morning?

If you find yourself feeling this way, then you might be suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

When we get into autumn, the nights get longer, the days become darker and it’s FREEZING all the time. After a long summer the swift change of season can feel jarring, and it can affect our mental health in a number of different ways.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mental health condition that affects around 1 in 15 people in the UK every year between the months of September and April. The symptoms are very similar to depression, including low mood, helplessness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, lethargy, loss of interest in activities and sleeping for longer or having trouble with sleep. Most people suffer with SAD symptoms during the winter months, giving it the nickname ‘winter depression’, but a small amount of people experience depressive feelings in the summer months, and feel better in the winter.

If symptoms persist throughout the year, it is more likely that you are suffering from depression; in this case you should go and see your GP as there is a lot of help available. You can also visit Mind for information and tips.

What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

It is not fully known what causes SAD, but it is thought to be down to a reduced exposure to sunlight (which is why it is more common in the winter months). A lack of sunlight and vitamin D can affect parts of the body such as:

  • The production of melatonin which is the hormone that makes you sleepy; an increase or an imbalance of this can make you extra sleepy and lethargic
  • The production of serotonin, a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. It is well-known that low serotonin levels can lead to depression
  • The body’s internal clock, which helps to regulate sleep patterns, can be disrupted when the hours of sunlight changes.

Some people are more sensitive to SAD due to genetics.

How to combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you’re a regular reader of A Literary Cocktail you’ll know that mental health and self-care is something very important to me. I’ve suffered with feelings of depression and I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself when you’re feeling low, so if you suffer seasonally, the best thing to do is to be ready and prepared for when the time comes. Talk to a loved one and make sure they know that you may need extra support over the winter months, so that you’re not alone.

Get good, quality sleep              

As our body clock tends to get a little confused in winter time, it can affect our sleep patterns. Too much or too little sleep can be detrimental to our overall health, and can cause feelings of depression. So, it is vital that you get good quality sleep! It is suggested that the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time each morning. Now, for years I have struggled with this; getting up is hard for me whatever I’m doing, BUT, going to bed at the same time every night honestly does work. Your body will get used to it and it will help to regulate your hormones. Invest in a high quality mattress and pillow and you’ll find it even easier to get a good night’s sleep.

Take time for yourself

As September comes round, start by making sure you have lots of things planned that are for you – make plans with friends, stock up on bath products, blankets and lots of books. However you like to spend your time, make sure you have options so that you’re not stuck feeling blue with nothing to do.

Get outside as much as you can

One of the biggest things that used to bother me was going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, and not getting any time outdoors. Plan to go on walks at the weekend, and head outside on your lunch break. Not only will this increase the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to, but it really helps your mental health to experience nature. Look at the changing colours of the leaves and appreciate the environment like you would in the summertime.

Go to see your doctor

Sometimes, you can run yourself a bath, spend time with friends and practice yoga as much as you like, but you still feel absolute pants. If what you’re feeling seems more serious, then go to your doctor and ask for help. They may be able to help you with talking therapies or medication. You do not have to suffer alone.

Do you suffer with SAD? I’d love to hear your tips!

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Tempur but all thoughts my own*