It’s absolutely normal to dread the onset of winter each year. Grey skies, cold weather and dark evenings are more than enough to leave anyone feeling the winter blues. However, if your feelings and behaviours around wintertime feel a little more severe than most people’s, if the cold months coincide with a clear negative change in your personality, it might be worth considering if you’re one of the millions of people around the globe affected by S.A.D.
What is S.A.D?
Also known as seasonal affective disorder, S.A.D is a type of depression triggered by a change in season or climate. Sufferers are most commonly affected by the colder winter months, although it can occur at any time of the year. While weather changes affect almost everyone’s mood, S.A.D sufferers are distinct in how their mood fluctuations affect their ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Symptoms of S.A.D
The most common symptoms of seasonal affective disorder mirror those of major depression. Of course, the key difference is that major depression isn’t localised to a specific season.
- Loss of focus or inability to concentrate.
- General feelings of hopelessness or despair.
- Loss of interest in physical intimacy.
- Changes in appetite: either eating too much or too little.
- Sleep problems: either an inability to fall asleep, stay sleeping or rise in the morning.
- Desire to isolate oneself from other people.
- Suicidal thoughts or feelings.
How to Fight S.A.D
While it can leave you feeling powerless (after all, you can’t control the weather), there are ways to combat the effects of seasonal affective disorder. Just like with typical depression, S.A.D sufferers can benefit from a range of counselling and therapies (cognitive behavioural therapy especially).
Additionally, many sufferers all over the world swear by light therapy. You may be familiar with this already: the treatment centres around a unique type of lamp (known as a light box) which mimics natural sunlight. By sitting near it for 30-60 minutes each day, the lamp helps boost your serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone) levels and reduce your melatonin levels (a hormone that causes feelings of sleepiness). While it does emit potentially harmful UV rays, you can purchase filters for the lamp which minimise their effects.
Of course, there’s no replacement for natural sunlight, so it’s important to try and get it wherever you can. Going out for exercise, eating a nutritionally rich diet and incorporating mindfulness meditation into your routine are a number of great ways to help ward off the worst of S.A.D.
As the weather takes a turn for the worst, it’s worth keeping watch for signs of S.A.D within yourself or those closest to you. Typical winter blues aren’t anything to be concerned about, but as soon as your feelings start impacting your ability to work, socialise or function normally, take action.
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