Shining the Spotlight on SAD
Friday 11th December 2020
I hope you have had a great week. It’s been a very dreich, typical West Highland winter’s day today, and I’ve got to say, I’m really missing the incredible weather we had over the summer. Bring on June! Or May, or even April… I just want those longer days and somewhat sunnier weather back!
I’ve lost count of how many conversations I’ve had along these lines with friends recently where they have said something similar, or we’ve all been reminiscing about how much we miss the lazy summer days where we’d nip to our local beach for a swim and sunbathe.
It’s commonplace to have the so called ‘winter blues’ these days, where perhaps you feel more lethargic, sleep in until it actually gets light outside (guilty!), and just generally feel a bit more down in the dumps this time of year.
But when does feeling that natural ‘foggyness’ many of us experience in Autumn and Winter, become a concern?
Many people don’t just experience a foggy, sad feeling during the winter, but actually experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (quite aptly shortened to SAD), where the winter months become that bit less manageable. So, I thought, since I didn’t really know all that much about SAD itself, I’d do some research to learn more, and share what I found on the blog.
I’ll also share at the end some things medical professionals recommend to improve symptoms of SAD, so if you think you might be affected by this condition at the moment, do read on until the end so hopefully you’ll find some positive steps you can take to help yourself.
So, what is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD has been mentioned more frequently in the media and by medical professionals over the past few years. It’s so common to hear of people buying light boxes to help stave off SAD symptoms, but what actually is SAD, and what are the symptoms?
Well essentially, SAD is a form of depression, brought on by the change in seasons. So many of the same symptoms of depression are apparent within this condition, the only difference is that symptoms generally tend to ease and alter with the different seasons. Now as I’ve mentioned, many people experience a change in how they feel during the winter months, such as changes to energy levels or eating habits. But these changes don’t significantly impact their lives the way SAD does.
A good analogy for the symptoms of SAD, is that essentially the individual will usually start to hibernate, so to speak. The NHS provide a handy guide (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad) to SAD and discuss symptoms in detail, but here is a summary. Someone with SAD might experience:
- The need to withdraw from their social groups, not see family and friends as much,
- A loss of pleasure or interest in activities they would take part in typically,
- Needing to sleep more,
- Low energy,
- An increased appetite (this sometimes takes the form of a particular craving for high carb foods, which can lead to weight gain)
- A persistent low mood,
- Feeling stressed or anxious,
- Low self-esteem,
- Feelings of worthlessness, despair or guilt,
- Being less active
- Difficulty concentrating
An interesting fact about SAD:
This came as a surprise to me, but although SAD is most common in Autumn and Winter, improving in Spring and Summer, sometimes people have different seasonal patterns. So, SAD can actually happen in the summer too, albeit this is much less common.
Ways you can manage SAD:
If you think you might be affected by SAD this festive season, firstly, don’t panic! There are so many effective, evidence based treatments available, and the best person who can advise you on these is your GP. Here are a few examples of the types of support they may suggest:
- Light therapy – sitting in front of a light box every morning can increase your light exposure and reduce symptoms;
- Cognitive behaviour therapy;
- Being more active – getting outside for a daily walk, or going for a jog or cycle, can increase endorphins and as a result your mood, but also since you’ll be outdoors, you’re increasing your exposure to the sun, which will help to ease symptoms;
- Engaging with your usual hobbies, and trying your best to avoid withdrawing from your typical social activities;
- In some cases, GP’s may recommend medication to help you manage symptoms.
When should you seek more support, such as from the GP?
If you think you might be have SAD, and are finding it difficult to cope, do contact your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to support you and recommend different positive steps to take to reduce your symptoms. Taking that first step to get support can sometimes be the hardest, but it’s so worth it.
What if you need to talk to someone?
If you are affected by anything discussed in this article, or generally having a tough time this festive season, please do not hesitate to contact our helpline or textline. Ewen’s Room’s Helpline and Textline are open from 5pm-10pm on weekdays and 12pm-10pm on weekends If you are affected by anything discussed in this article, generally having a tough time this festive season, or just looking for someone to talk to, please do get in touch. Our Helpline number is – 0800 689 3317 and our Textline number is – 07537 431637.
Opening times over the festive period are the same as above, except for the 24th and 25th of December where we have longer opening times of 12pm – 10pm.
I hope this article was of use to you, and that whatever you are doing this weekend, it’s a pleasant one.
I thought it would be helpful today to talk about an aspect of mental health support, more specifically, peer support.
The Building Natural Capital Project
The Building Natural Capital Project is a collaboration between Ewen’s Room and the Buzz Project.
Light Up The Dark
A community-wide event to Light Up The Dark this winter from winter solstice to spring equinox