Feeling S.A.D? Seasonal Affective Disorder
Updated: Nov 7
Many people start to notice feeling more down or a shift in their general mood when the days get shorter and darker.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D) is a form of depression that affects 2 to 3% of people from the fall to the spring. If often starts with the time change in the fall due to less sunlight exposure.
It's also referred to as the "winter blues", even though it tends to start in the fall.
S.A.D differs from typical depression as it only tends to affect the person from the fall to the spring, whereas typical depression is year round. However, it is possible to have depression as well as S.A.D.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder include:
- feeling more tired than usual
- withdrawal from normal activities you'd enjoy
- changes in appetite (less or more)
- feeling more irritable or short tempered than usual
- low motivation, or poor ability to focus
- wanting to sleep more than usual, or difficulties with sleep
Many of these are symptoms of depression, but if you only feel this way from the fall to the spring, it could be S.A.D.
Scientists aren't sure exactly what causes S.A.D, but it's thought that a lack of sun exposure could affect the levels of brain chemicals that impact mood, such as serotonin.
It's thought that deficiencies in vitamin D may also contribute to low mood and S.A.D, as especially in more northern climates, our skin has much less exposure to sunlight in the fall and winter months; the main way our body produces vitamin D.
If one of your symptoms is insomnia, know that lack of sleep in and of itself can also contribute to low mood and depression.
There's no need to suffer; you deserve to feel good all year round. Living with untreated S.A.D would mean almost half your life is spent suffering.
S.A.D can keep you from enjoying all that the colder months have to offer; quality time with friends and loved ones, playing in the snow, enjoying a cup of cocoa or a crackling fire and a good book.
How to manage Seasonal Affective Disorder
- counselling: talking about your concerns helps ease the burden on your mind, helps you feel heard and understood, which is critical for mental wellbeing. It also gives you insight into mental patterns that may no longer be serving you and may be contributing to your low mood.
- support from family and loved ones: humans are social beings; we crave connection and support from others. It supports our self worth and makes us feel more capable to deal with the hard times. It may be tempting to retreat into yourself and feel that you don't want to "be a burden" to loved ones, but those that truly care will be happy to be there for you.
- exercise: try to make a lunch time walk a habit to get sun exposure. Moving your body is proven to boost your mood and help you achieve deeper, more restorative sleep.
- light therapy: exposure to bright light (full spectrum, 10,000 lux or higher) in the morning can help boost mood and reset your circadian rhythm - your body's natural sleep-wake cycle.
- get on a regular sleep schedule and work on sleep hygiene: keep your room cool, dark and quiet, avoid screens 2 hours before bed, avoid alcohol and eating before bed. Your body likes routine; try to go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up around the same time each morning. Research shows you may need one or two extra hours sleep in the winter months. If you're struggling with getting to sleep or staying asleep, try practicing deep breathing or meditation before bed.
- morning sunlight exposure: try to get as much light exposure as you can, especially in the morning. This sets your circadian rhythm and regulates your hormones that control your sleep wake cycle as well as your mood.
- medication (antidepressants): if you've tried the above and you still find yourself struggling, you may wish to try medication, if it's recommended and prescribed by your doctor.
If you're struggling with depression, or with what you think might be S.A.D we are here to help.
Book your free intake call today to get started.