FEELING S.A.D? – DEALING WITH SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks (ever since the clocks went back actually), however it has been difficult as quite frankly, I’ve felt far too knackered to even put pen to paper. I dread the clocks going back and the long winter nights; don’t get me wrong I adore autumn, the beautiful golden colours, Halloween, bonfire night and the excitement of Christmas, however I do struggle with this overwhelming feeling of sheer exhaustion.

SO, WHAT IS S.A.D?

For me the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (known as S.A.D) are not as severe as some, for other people the condition can be debilitating.  In a nutshell SAD is a condition which effects our equilibrium (as I think of it), during seasonal weather changes, leaving sufferers feeling drained and battling the winter blues, that just won’t go away.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

The exact cause of S.A.D isn’t yet known however research suggests that the following may cause symptoms:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight during autumn and winter may cause winter-onset SAD as this decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression and lethargy.
  • A decrease in serotonin due to a decrease in sunlight, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD.
  • The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.
  • Physical illness and a change in diet or medication are also thought to have an effect.

SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Having low energy
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep patterns (having difficult sleeping or feeling to sleep more often)
  • Muscle aches
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty

SELF-HELP GUIDE

Whilst it is tempting to hide under the duvet until spring, accompanied with a year’s supply of Cadbury’s and a list as long as your arm (and legs) of box-sets you long to watch. It is important you apply a bit of self-care in order to help you through the winter period.

Sun-light – always try to sit near the window whether in the classroom, work or at home. Sun-light is proven to help and light increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, which many SAD sufferers will be lacking. If you do have a lunch-hour, or break instead of sitting at your desk, wrap up well if it’s cold and try and always get out into the fresh air and go for a walk in the natural light. This always clears my head and helps me to get through the afternoon, I do find if I sit at my desk or stay in-doors I am more exhausted and less productive. If you work from home, then schedule a break and escape outdoors.

SAD-Lamps – I have invested in one this year as I am also battling with a para-hyperthyroid issue which is making me twice as tired. SAD-Lamps are supposed to help as it replicates natural sun-light, if you do decide to invest then please do a little research. The higher the LUX (The lux is the SI derived unit of illuminance and luminous emittance), the more effective it is. I ordered the following with a LUX of 10000, it is quite a large and you switch on for 30 mins at a time UK SAD-Lamp, so far it does seem to be helping and as an added bonus it doubles up as a fantastic make-up lamp!

Diet – It is tempting to reach for those sugary snacks, especially at 3 pm in an afternoon when you hit the wall, I find sugar gives you a temporary energy rush followed by a slump. If you do feel low and sluggish, the last thing you need on top of everything else is the worry of weight gain, for me I try to eat balanced meals and snack on fruit (which contains natural sugar) and drink plenty of water to keep hydrated. It’s not rocket science but it does help and it is important to maintain those energy levels.

Vitamin D – Also known as the ‘sunshine supplement’. Vitamin D helps naturally boost serotonin levels (as mentioned earlier). I take Ultra Vitamin D by Vitabiotics  1000 mg one-a-day, I do take this all year around as Vitamin D also helps with maintaining healthy bones.

Maintain a Social Life – yup, I do a great hedgehog impression over the winter months, but try and get out there, meet with friends, go for a walk! Leave the house at least once a day, staying engaged and active does give you a boost. Whilst curling up on the sofa to watch Strictly on a Saturday (cuddled up with a family sized bag of crisps and a bottle of Chardonnay is dreamy), getting dressed (up) and going out you’re your girl-friends is also good for the soul too.

Exercise – There’s no getting away from the fact that we all know exercising is good for us. Even in moderation! If you didn’t know why, when we exercise our body releases chemicals called endorphins which in turn trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. So, it is worth swapping your pj’s’ for Lycra leggings at least once a week, even for a Pilate’s or Yoga class.

Winter Sun – Not everyone has the budget for a winter holiday, however you can bag a bargain. The Canary Isles (Tenerife in particular), enjoy summer temperatures all year round and only a 4-hour flight from London. A week in the sun won’t break the bank if you shop around on-line (or perhaps take your summer holiday in January or February instead like we do). We’ve been a couple of times during February half-term and the weather has always been fabulous. The psychological effects of having a holiday to look forward to does wonders for me (and gives me an incentive to get into a bikini). If you holiday in February, by the time you return, Spring is just around the corner!

If you think you could be suffering with the symptoms of S.A.D and the condition seems to be affecting your everyday life, then please do make an appointment with your GP. This is now a recognised illness and research shows that as many as 1 in 3 people suffer with some or all of the symptoms. I hope you found this post useful (disclaimer – I am not a specialist but find the above guide can help). Here’s to a happy winter season.

As ever, thank you for stopping by

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Photography: MC

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