Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression many people experience at different times of the year but is more prominent during the darker months of the year. As the days grow shorter and colder, some individuals find themselves struggling with symptoms of low mood, lethargy, and a general sense of uneasiness which can leave you feeling persistently sad or low for weeks or months at a time.
It's sometimes referred to as the "winter blues" or "winter depression." SAD is believed to be related to changes in natural light exposure, which can disrupt the body's circadian rhythms and affect mood-regulating chemicals like melatonin and serotonin.
In the past few weeks as the hours changed and the days grew darker and shorter I've seen an increase of SAD in people. So what are the symptoms?
People with SAD often experience persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and irritability. A lack of energy and fatigue are also common, making it difficult to accomplish daily tasks. This can also lead to oversleeping or finding difficulty in waking up in the morning. Planning ahead when to wake up and giving yourself enough time before going to the office is a healthy routine, this can include morning midfulness, having breakfast, having a shower and setting intentions for the day.
Many individuals with SAD crave sugary and starchy foods, this is because sugar and carbohydrates can boost serotonin levels making food a quick mood booster. Food can be also a sense of comfort and reward especially when feeling low providing a temporary relief from negative emotions. Sugar can be a quick energy booster but can also lead to weight gain, making a health balanced diet a very important aspect of a self-care strategy for SAD. People experiencing these winter blues also have a tendency to withdraw from social activities and relationships and prefer staying inside. Whilst it is important to calm down from the rush or the million activities we had planned in summer, it is equally important to surround yourself with a secure support network and not isolate yourself during this time.
While the exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, several factors are believed to contribute to its development, including:
1. *Biological Clock Disruption:* Reduced exposure to natural daylight during the winter months can disrupt the body's internal clock (circadian rhythms) and lead to depressive symptoms.
2. *Serotonin Levels:* Decreased sunlight exposure may result in lower serotonin levels in the brain, affecting mood and sleep.
3. *Melatonin Levels:* Reduced daylight can also lead to an overproduction of melatonin, contributing to feelings of fatigue and drowsiness.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to combats treatments available for SAD.
Daylight, Exercise and Grounding activities are key for autumn days
Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real and challenging condition that affects a significant number of people each year. Recognizing the symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment is crucial for managing SAD. Whether it's through light therapy, therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes, there are ways to help individuals overcome the winter blues and improve their quality of life during the darker months. If you or someone you know experiences SAD symptoms, don't hesitate to reach out for guidance and support.