Four ways of beating Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Autumn is well and truly here. The sun has yet to rise when the alarm goes off in the morning and it’s dark on the cycle ride home. Autumn has its benefits too though.

There’s Halloween and Bonfire Night (FUN!!!) as well as it being perfect for lighting the fire and snuggling up. Unfortunately, one thing that sometimes comes with the changing of the season is Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as The Winter Blues, Winter Depression and SAD.

What is SAD?

Most of us are affected by the change in seasons in some way. It’s normal to feel more energetic and cheerful during the summer when the sun is shining and the nights are light. You may find that you eat and sleep more during the winter months, like you’re hibernating.

However, if you suffer from SAD, the change in season can have a bigger effect on your mood and energy levels. Symptoms of depression can creep in which can have a significant impact on your daily life.

Symptoms of SAD include a persistent low mood, a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities, irritability, feeling lethargic during the day and sleeping for longer than normal1.

What Causes SAD?

The exact cause of SAD isn’t fully understood, but it is often said to be linked to a reduced exposure to sunlight during those shorter autumn and winter days. The theory behind this is that the lack of sunlight stops a part of your brain, the hypothalamus, from doing its job properly.

What Can You Do?

If you think you are struggling with SAD, there are some things that you can do to help.

  1. Lifestyle - try to get as much natural sunlight as you can. If you’re in lectures or an office, try to get out at lunchtime for a walk. If possible, try to do your exercise outside. Getting wrapped up for a run or setting up a bodyweight circuits in the park are both ways to destress and get some sunlight .
  2. Light therapy - this is a using a special lamp called a light box, which is used to stimulate exposure to sunlight. You don’t need to just sit in front of it though, why not read your book whilst using it. There are also sunlight alarm clocks. These are designed to gently wake you up by simulating a sunrise!
  3. Talking therapies - Talking about SAD is a great way to start. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or counselling are highly recommended. It can also be helpful to talk to your family and friends about SAD. The more that they know and understand, the better the support that they can offer you.
  4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet - It’s easy to eat junk food when you aren’t feeling great. Try to stick to a balanced diet to keep your energy levels up and don’t forget to take vitamins if you feel that your diet is lacking.