With life comes emotional, physical and spiritual highs and lows. But apparently winter blues comes with its own label of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists:
SAD is a complex depressive illness. It is most likely triggered by the lack of sunlight in winter, which affects levels of hormones (melatonin and serotonin) in the part of the brain controlling mood, sleep and appetite – our circadian rhythms.
- Sleep problems – trouble waking up, even if you’ve slept enough hours.
- Diet cravings – comfort food and carbs, trying to perk up your energy levels.
- Emotions on high or low – anxious, irritable, unruly, depressed, flat, lethargic, exhausted and generally uninspired (including in the bedroom).
- Social limits – not as interested in spending time with others or doing things that you usually enjoy doing.
- Body signs – join pain, stomach issues, getting sick.
Of course, always ask yourself, “What else could it mean?”
All of the above symptoms can be somebody’s standard day, whether they choose to accept it or not. You can have this baggage all year round or just for a few months over winter, or summer, or after you hit your hard limits in the workplace or at home.
Any of the above within your normal limits are probably fine. I guess, knowing your limits is the important thing.
SAD in the UK
In the UK, about 3 people in every 100 have significant winter depressions. People can start feeling SAD from as early as September right through until April.
SAD in Australia
When we first moved to Canberra from Brisbane in Australia – it took us a several years to adapt to the bitter cold winters, shorter days and feelings of cabin fever because we didn’t think we could (or wanted to) do anything outdoors.
We went from 35ºC+ at New Years Eve one year to -2ºC the next! We didn’t know what hit us. But we adapted.
We realised that it was our choice to stay indoors and we just needed to harden up and dress properly. Like the locals. If there was only a few hours of warm weather and sunshine – that was when we aimed to get outside – or at least sit in front of the window and feel the sunshine on our skin.
Reducing the affects of SAD
Understand it better.
- Read a book about SAD.
- Realise that it is a form of depression. You can get free self-help for depression.
Get as much natural sunlight as possible.
- Get out in the sun when it’s available. Get familiar with your local sunrise and sunset times and plan to catch some rays.
- Consider alternative sunlight. Phototherapy involves using a light box to improve your mood, treat seasonal depression, circadian rhythm disorders and jet lag.
- According to Litebook, most indoor environments are not sufficiently bright for the body to acknowledge it as being daytime – the body needs brightness of 2,500 lux, while even a well-lit office will only provide 500 lux. As a result your body never truly “wakes up”.
- Because SAD is recognised as a medical condition by HMRC, you can even purchase equipment free of VAT (just declaration during the checkout process).
- Visit SAD Association (SADA)
- Visit SAD.org.uk
- Remember your health fund may provide information and benefits.
Other ways to manage SAD