Most of us feel lethargic, run down and listless around this time of year, but for some of us this problem is tenfold in the form of a clinically diagnosed illness known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.
There is ongoing debate in the field of mental health professionals as to what exactly causes the onset of SAD, although many seem to lean towards changes in exposure to sunlight at various times of the year.
The most commonly noted sufferers are those affected by autumn and winter seasons, there are however, those who are affected slightly differently though no less severely by spring and summer.
Symptoms of autumn and winter SAD include:
- Tired/low energy
- Cravings for carbohydrates
- Weight gain
- Inability to concentrate
- Withdrawing socially
- Loss of interest
- Sleeping more than usual
Symptoms of spring and summer SAD include:
- Weight loss
- Agitation and anxiety
Some basic coping strategies for dealing with SAD are common to many psychological disorders, by no means are they going to be 100% effective but should help to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Get some sun
Natural daylight, can help to maintain the body’s circadian rhythm, responsible for regulating sleep patterns and other physiological processes. This is good to do in the mornings especially as it will let your body know it’s no longer night.
Sunlight allows the body to produce vitamin D which is a significant factor in mood regulation.
Exercise can improve mood, increase self-esteem, and alleviate symptoms of various depressive mental illnesses.
Daily exercise especially outdoors in the daylight hours can help to keep your mood more stable and with the added benefit of getting more sunlight.
Eat well and resist the urge to comfort eat
People in the grips of depression or anxiety can turn to junk food and other unhealthy comfort eating habits. Avoid this completely if at all possible and try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to further boost you mood levels in the long term.
Maintain a Regular Sleep Schedule
Both insomnia and oversleeping can occur when you’re feeling depressed. Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule, which means going to bed and waking up at the same time. Everyone differs in how much sleep they need. Experiment to find out how many hours your body requires to function at an optimal level.
Do Something Different
Breaking away from your normal routine now and then by developing a new hobby can keep the mind active and stimulated. Luckily, you don’t have to go to extremes and take up skydiving for this to be effective. Begin journaling, try a new machine at the gym, or cook a new recipe you haven’t made before. Give yourself something novel to look forward to, even if it seems small and insignificant.
Set goals but don’t be too tough on yourself
It’s important to be gentle with yourself when experiencing symptoms of SAD. Sufferers may beat themselves up for feeling so poorly, which can exacerbate symptoms. Remind yourself that what you’re feeling is not your own fault and you’re doing everything within your control to feel better. Celebrate small victories such as getting out of the house for a walk or simply pulling yourself out of bed.
Seek Professional Help
Seeking professional help is a very good option in order to get a diagnosis and help with managing symptoms.
We hope this can help some of you more easily deal with the effects of SAD this winter.