When the winter months come around, with the colder weather and darker days, this can often bring about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This form of depression can be common over the colder months, leaving many of us feeling low and struggling to cope. In this article, we will explore ways in which to deal with the winter blues, so that you can find relief and get through this potential struggle feeling your best and most positive.
1. What is SAD and its Symptoms?
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Understanding its Symptoms and Causes
SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, is a type of depression that typically manifests during a particular season – usually winter. Although it is more prevalent in winter months, SAD can happen in other seasons too.
Symptoms of SAD
SAD is a catalogue of emotional and physical changes that can vary in intensity from person to person. Common symptoms of SAD include:
- Changes in appetite, particularly an increased craving for carbohydrates and sweet food
- Lethargy and low levels of energy
- Sleep disturbances, such as difficulty getting out of bed
- Psychological changes such as increased crankiness, anxiety and depression
- Low levels of motivation and focus
- Stronger sensitivity to criticism
Causes of SAD
The most commonly accepted explanation for SAD is the reduced level of sunlight during these months, especially in colder climates where the days can be short and grey. The lack of sunlight can lead to a decrease in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for maintaining feelings of wellbeing.
Other proposed causes include genetics. Several studies suggest that those with SAD are more likely to have a relative with the same disorder. Additionally, some experts claim it could have something to do with melatonin levels – a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.
2. Identifying Winter Blues
It’s that time of year again – winter approaches with chilly days, dark evenings and often a certain feeling of melancholy in the air. Winter blues: we all recognize its symptoms, but how do you identify it?
Winter blues involve a range of different symptoms, all of which can be categorized under the umbrella term of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some of these symptoms can include feeling depressed, losing interest in activities that used to bring joy, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling anxious or irritable, having low energy and feeling a lack of motivation.
If you think you may be experiencing winter blues, there are some simple tests you can take to get an idea of the severity:
- Rate your mood on a scale of one to five – five being the most severe.
- Make a list of activities that used to bring you joy and determine if you still feel the same way about them.
- Notice if you feel unusually energetic or lethargic.
- Pay attention to how you react to situations – if you’re feeling irritable or agitated more than usual.
Identifying the winter blues can be the first step towards feeling better again. If you’re feeling any symptoms that persist, it’s a good idea to speak to a health professional for an accurate diagnosis and a personalized plan for treatment.
3. Strategies for Combatting SAD
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can be a tough experience during the colder, darker months. It affects your mental health, emotions, and physical wellbeing. Combatting SAD could seem like a daunting task, but luckily there are some strategies to give you a boost and help you tackle it head on.
Light plays a key role in regulating our moods, so a lack of natural light can cause SAD. The bright and sunny days of summer give way to the darker, cloudy days of winter, so to make up for this decrease in exposure, it’s worth considering light therapy. Light therapy can help reset the body’s internal clock and boost mood when it’s lacking the normal amount of light.
It won’t come as a huge surprise that exercise is a great way of dealing with SAD. Working out helps produce serotonin and dopamine, both of which are chemicals that lift your mood. Plus, you can always feel good about yourself for committing to something and sticking with it, providing you with an additional incentive to help combat SAD.
Reconnecting With Other People
SAD is often accompanied with a lack of energy, leading to an unwillingness to see other people and socialise. However, it’s important to stay connected with friends, family, and people who bring positive vibes to your life. It’s encouraged to plan activities with other people in the colder months to ensure your SAD doesn’t take over.
4. Benefits of Self-Care During the Winter Months
Winter can be a trying time, and self-care is key for many during this low-energy period. Here are four of the main benefits of prioritizing self-care during the winter months:
- Increased energy - Taking quality time for self-care can help replenish energy levels that may have been drained by the shorter days and longer hours of darkness. Self-care can help maintain physical and mental well-being, while giving some time to recharge.
- Better mood regulation – Even when energy levels are low, self-care activities make it easier to establish a balance between rest and movement, promoting regular sleep patterns and improved adherence to a routine. This helps to create an orderly lifestyle that can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Connect with like-minded people – Taking part in communal activities and seeking support from family, friends, and co-workers can help in times of struggle or difficulty. This socialization process promotes greater peer- and self-understanding, allowing a person to make the most of their opportunities and resources.
- Balance work and leisure – Time taken for self-care allows for healthier work-life balance, improving overall results and satisfaction. It also encourages self-reflection that comes with taking the time to practice healthy habits.
Self-care during the winter months is a key part of staying healthy and balanced. Even if motivation is running low, it’s important to set aside some time for the body and mind to recharge and to keep up with regular activities.
5. Dealing with SAD: Steps Towards Recovery
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a common form of depression due to changing seasons or the lack of daylight. It is important for those who experience SAD to know there are steps they can take to recover. Here are 5 steps towards recovery:
- Seek professional help: It is important to seek help from professionals, such as psychiatrists and therapists, to be diagnosed and treated for SAD. These professionals can also provide support and advice through the recovery process.
- Find emotional support: It is important to have support from those who are close to you. Being surrounded by people who understand SAD can provide a healing environment for recovery.
- Stay active: Regular exercise can positively impact mental health. To increase endorphin and serotonin production, it is important to stay active.
- Self-care: Self-care is an important practice for wellbeing. Taking the time to practice self-care can help those with SAD to reduce symptoms and maintain good mental health.
- Reduce stress: To effectively reduce symptoms of SAD, it is important to reduce stress. Practices such as yoga, relaxation, and deep breathing can reduce anxiety and help with natural recovery.
These 5 steps are a general guide to recovery for those with a SAD diagnosis. It is important to maintain an open communication with a professional to track the recovery process.
Take a moment and embrace the beauty of the winter season. All too often we are blinded by the blues or bogged down by SAD, but when we can make the most of the winter months, it can be a time of reflection, embracing special moments, and knowing that the spring will be here before we know it!