SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD)
We often think of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when the winter nights draw in. However, SAD can affect you at any time of the year, although it is most common in winter.
Main symptoms of SAD
Lack of interest and enjoyment of life
Feeling anxious or worried
Loss of interest in sex
Loss of interest in your usual activities, including withdrawing from social activities
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and despair
Unexplained aches and pains
You may also feel sleepy during the day and find it hard to get up in the morning. Your appetite might change, and you may crave food high in carbohydrates.
What causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
Researchers don’t know exactly what causes it however some theories suggest:
Biological clock changes – when someone has less exposure to sunlight their internal clock which regulates their sleep, appetite and mood all shift.
Vitamin D deficit – less sun in winter can lead to a vitamin D deficiency and this can affect serotonin levels and mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical messenger that contributes to feelings of happiness.
Melatonin boost – The lack of sunlight may stimulate an overproduction of melatonin, a chemical that effect sleep patterns.
Summer SAD symptoms are similar although there are some differences:
The longer daylight hours and shorter nights mean you are more likely to sleep too little rather than too much.
Rather than overeating you are more likely to have a loss of appetite.
Here are some self-help tips when feeling SAD:
Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun.
Take a short walk outdoors or if you can, spend some quiet time in a green space.
Increase the amount of natural light in your home and workplace and try sitting near a window.
It’s hard to get going but if you can, take up regular exercise. Exercise can boost your serotonin, endorphins (responsible for feelings of pleasure) and can improve your sleep.
You may want to retreat to your cave but try and reach out to family and friends and let them help.
Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day will help keep your energy up and minimize mood swings. You could freeze meals which will be there for when you don’t have the energy to cook. Fresh fruit and energy balls are a great go to for snacking.
Reduce the caffeine and alcohol which are stimulants and can disrupt our body clocks.
If you suffer summer SAD, changing your sleeping patterns by going to bed earlier at night and rising earlier in the morning can also help to reset your body’s circadian rhythms.
Staying in the shade more and making an effort to keep cool.
Consider blackout blinds in your bedroom will help block out the extra hours of sunlight which may help with associated sleep problems.
Counselling can help explore the negative thoughts, attitudes, and behaviours that make the disorder worse.