As the seasons change and we move from Autumn into Winter, many people experience shifts in mood and energy levels. For some, these changes can be more pronounced, leading to a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In this blog post, we will explore what SAD is, its symptoms, potential causes, and, most importantly, practical strategies to cope and thrive during the challenging winter months.

What is it?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, is a feeling of depression that occurs at a specific time of year, typically during late autumn and winter when daylight hours are shorter. Less exposure to natural light can disrupt the body’s internal clock (also known as the circadian rhythm) and can lead to feelings of sadness and lethargy.

The symptoms of SAD can include:

  • Low mood and sadness
  • Losing interest in things or enjoyment in activities
  • Low energy levels and fatigue
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Withdrawing and isolating yourself from social activities

SAD is caused by disruptions in melatonin and serotonin levels in the body due to reduced sunlight exposure in the later part of the year. It can lead to changes in the body’s internal clock, especially when the clocks change, which in turn can affect sleep-wake cycles and your mood.

What can I do about it?

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a very treatable condition, and there are many strategies to manage its impact on your life. By incorporating these coping strategies into your routine, you can not only alleviate symptoms but also thrive during the winter months. If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of SAD, why not try the below suggestions?

  • Try light therapy (phototherapy). Exposure to a bright light that mimics natural sunlight can help alleviate symptoms. Light therapy boxes are designed for this purpose and can be used daily, especially in the morning.
  • Get outside. Engaging in physical activity outdoors exposes you to natural light and helps combat feelings of fatigue. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
  • Try mindfulness and meditation. These practices can help manage stress and improve overall mood. Consider incorporating these techniques into your daily routine.
  • Stay connected. Plan social activities or join clubs to maintain a sense of community, especially with friends and family. 
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Choose nutrient-rich foods and avoid excessive carbohydrates. Balanced nutrition can positively impact both physical and mental well-being.
  • Get good sleep. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to improve sleep quality.

Remember, if symptoms persist or worsen, seek help from a mental health professional or your GP.