Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
You may have heard a bit about SAD (or Seasonal Affective Disorder). Around this time of year, when winter brings its dark evenings and cold weather, we start to hear the rumour that the "SAD" months are upon us.
But what is SAD and what can we do about it?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression, that is linked to the changes of the seasons throughout the year. Symptoms of this strand of depression often become more apparent during the winter months, although low mood can continue throughout the year. SAD is strongly linked to lack of light*, which we all get significantly less of in the winter months (for example, we may soon be coming out of work when it is already dark). People suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder may encounter a number of symptoms such as sleep and appetite changes, low energy, food cravings and low concentration levels**. All these elements can affect motivation and may continue the downward spiral of low mood and low wellbeing.
Studies have showed that women are 40% more likely to suffer from “winter blues” than men***
As the causes of Seasonal Affective Disorder are not fully understood, it is difficult to categorically answer the questions around how to reduce the depressed feelings and the many symptoms that come with SAD. As in most cases of low mood or depression, there is also a vast range of ways and levels that SAD can affect an individual, which in turn leads to difficulty in identifying universal "treatments" or solutions.
Taking part in regular outdoor activities can help reduce symptoms of milder forms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be difficult to find motivation when suffering with SAD so it is can be helpful to try to create a personal schedule to help form a routine of doing outdoor activities. Good exercises to try are morning walking or jogging because they encourage time spent in daylight (to get more vitamin D) as well as releasing 'happy' chemicals in the brain. It is recommended that everyone exercises for 30-60 minutes a day. This time can help to boost feel good chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in our bodies, which in turn makes us feel better. You can read more about this in our blogs about exercise and yoga. It can be especially hard to remain inspired in winter, so if you find that you are struggling, maybe talk to a friend/neighbour/coach and arrange to do an activity together to have that other person ready to keep you motivated.
If you feel that your wellbeing is suffering, either due to SAD or stress or similar, it can be helpful to find new hobbies and meet new people. At The Bridge, we are currently running the RISE project, which is a new project to help support women to achieve balance through a choice of free activities. You can join us every Friday from 29th September to 15th December 2017. To book your place or find out more here.
If you are struggling this winter and think you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder, you should consider seeing your GP. SAD is a lot more common than most people think and your GP will always be there to give you guidance and help.