Seasonal affective disorder is sometimes known as “winter depression” or “seasonal depression” because it affects us during winter. Up to 3 in 100 people in the UK at some point in their life is affected by SAD.
Most people start to get symptoms for the first time in their 20s or 30s, but can also impact children whilst women are about four times more likely to have SAD than men – according to Bupa.
People who have SAD experience depression in certain seasons. For many people it starts in autumn and continues during the winter, but it can also be experienced during certain types of weather.
Entering the darker, colder months might be a struggle for many of us. It’s harder to leave the bed in the mornings and go for a run. It can also be tough to be productive in the evenings and to do what you didn’t have time to do during the day.
As the charity Mind said, it’s common to be affected by changing seasons and weather, or to have times of the year when you feel less comfortable. But if your feelings are interfering with your day-to-day life, it could be a sign that you have depression, and if they keep coming back at the same time of the year, professionals might call it SAD or “seasonal depression”.
What are the symptoms of seasonal depression?
The symptoms of seasonal depression (also known as SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder) might vary between people and the season of the year that you’re experiencing it. Usually, the symptoms start mild and progress to severe throughout the season.
Some of the symptoms you might experience are:
- Symptoms of depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Low or lack of energy
- Changes in your appetite
- Feeling sad, hopeless, low, guilty or worthless
- Irregular sleeping pattern
- Isolating yourself to avoid seeing people
- Lower or loss of sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling agitated or sluggish
Coping with depression means that the person with the condition must really put the effort in and work on how best to handle it, as well as find the support need. The same happens with SAD, if you experience some of the symptoms we’ve mentioned before in the run up to autumn, you should start getting ready for it. Learn and try new things that might help you. Here are 10 tips might be worth trying.
10 tips to cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Try to make the most of the natural light during the day
While the sun is out, open your curtains. Let the light go inside your house and make the most of it. During the day is when you will feel most productive, so try to get done what’s on the top of your list.
- Regular exercise
Keeping your body and mind active is important for your wellbeing. Try to exercise outdoors if possible, if not indoors will work too.
- Talk to a professional
Because SAD is a form of depression, you should talk to a therapist or a doctor in order to give you a diagnosis and a treatment. The treatment may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications, and psychotherapy.
A gratitude journal will help you develop a greater appreciation for the good in your life, it can have a big effect on our wellbeing and mental health.
- Social connections
Fill your winter with enjoyable group activities. Find creative ways to connect with your friends and family, even if it’s cold or dark. Keeping those who support you close and avoiding isolation is the main thing to do when experiencing SAD or depression.
- Consistent sleep schedule
Even though it gets darker earlier and lighter later, it doesn’t mean your sleep pattern has to change. If you are experiencing SAD, you might have trouble sleeping at night and waking up in the morning. Try to maintain a regular schedule to improve your sleep.
- Set a routine
Try to have your own checklist during the day. In general, it’s harder for everyone to stay productive in the afternoon.
- Prioritise yourself
Practise self-care, take a bath, cook your favourite meal, learn something new or just relax with a nice movie.
- Get vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency might be one of the reasons you have SAD. Low levels of vitamin D are generally bad for our physical and mental health. Try to speak to a doctor if you think your intake of vitamin D is low, they might recommend supplements to you.
- Avoid alcohol
Quite often, we use alcohol as a form of stress relief. While experiencing SAD your alcohol consumption might increase, and this might lead to developing an addiction. Your mind will relate feeling low with consuming alcohol, speak to a doctor if this happens.
If you need mental health support visit our 24/7 helpline with qualified counsellors ready to help you.
Other helplines: Samaritans, SANEline, National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK.