Feeling unhappy most of the time. Not sleeping well. Always tired. Lacking enthusiasm for for life in general and avoiding doing things we used to enjoy. Losing our temper easily and snapping at our family. These are all important signs that we may be experiencing seasonal depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.. Many people experience low mood at this time of the year. But why does this happen and is there anything we can do to make things better?
What is SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a depressive illness caused by a lack of exposure to sunlight during the shortened days of winter. This lack of daylight is thought to affect our patterns of sleeping and waking and this can cause low mood and sleep disturbance.
People with SAD can have a persistent low mood, lack of energy, irritability, over-eating, difficulty concentrating and a tendency to keep to themselves. This can lead to a sense of hopelessness and a feeling that life is not going to get better. We may avoid doing things we used to enjoy and don't feel like going out or meeting friends. We spend more and more time alone and often just want to curl up under a blanket and hide from the world. We may also find that we get overwhelmed more easily by things that we used to be able to cope with.
Who is affected by SAD?
Anybody can experience SAD. There are some people, however, who are more at risk. Having a close relative such as a parent or sibling who has SAD increases the likelihood of experiencing it. People who have a prior experience of depression are also at an increased risk of being affected.
What can be done to fight back against the winter blues?
Firstly, recognise what is happening. By understanding that symptoms are being caused by a lack of sunlight it is possible to take steps to address this imbalance. It is important to go outdoors. I know it’s hard. Going for a walk in cold or wet weather when already feeling low and tired can be tough. But increasing exposure to sunlight is the key to tackling SAD. Exercise is also shown to have a beneficial effect on overall mood. It doesn’t need to be vigorous - a regular short stroll is perfect for giving our body the exercise it needs and increasing our time in the daylight. If walking during daylight hours is really not possible then it may be time to consider light therapy. This provides exposure to an artificial light which has the same effect on our bodies as sunlight. Be sure to consult with a professional such as a GP for advice regarding this treatment.
Next, it may help to to examine lifestyle. It might not be possible to control the weather, but it is possible to control how we treat ourselves. When feeling low it is often tempting to neglect things such as proper sleeping and eating. But remember this is likely to make things worse. Excessive workload or high levels of stress can also have a negative effect on well-being. Keeping to a balanced routine and lifestyle is crucial in helping to stay physically and psychologically healthy.
Lastly, it can be helpful to talk about feelings. It can be hard to admit to feeling depressed or overwhelmed. Often, people just carry on and pretend everything's okay. But confiding in someone can be a relief and can help to work through difficult feelings. When really struggling to cope, sharing this with someone can be an important step in finding the necessary help and support.
Experiencing low mood during winter time is not uncommon. Many people struggle with SAD. The important thing is to remember that you're not alone and things can improve.
I’m always happy to talk about how life can be better.
Make a change today.
Have a great week,
Newbridge, Co. Kildare.
Portlaoise, Co. Laois