Seasonal Affective Disorder

Bluetree’s psychology intern Alannah Fallon (pictured above) writes about seasonal affective disorder and how we can help..

With the days getting shorter and winter quickly approaching, you may find that the winter blues are slowly creeping up on you, with lower moods, feeling tired and a loss of motivation becoming more frequent. It’s normal to feel a bit lower in the winter time, as many of us do, however feelings of ongoing depression and lowness is something that should be looked at properly and addressed.

Some may believe that these periods of depression during winter are just a myth and ‘moodiness’ that is not based on any scientific evidence. However, Winter blues, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) being its clinical name, is a relatively common disorder in which millions of people across the globe experience particularly throughout the winter months, with less hours of daylight and colder temperatures being thought to be a contributing factor to the disorder. As SAD is a form of depression, it can and should be assessed and diagnosed by a healthcare professional. Symptoms of SAD can include things such as a persistent low mood, low energy, feeling unmotivated to complete daily tasks, irritability, sleeping for longer than usual and loss of interest in things that used to be of interest to you.

Although it can be easy to think that SAD is unavoidable and its symptoms will persist, leaving you feeling low and unmotivated all winter long, there are some simple things which you can implement in your daily routine to help diminish the impact of SAD throughout the winter months and keep your mind healthy.

  1. Keep active – Exercise is not only vital for physical but also mental wellbeing. Regular physical activity is known to help ease symptoms of different forms of depression and lift mood by reducing stress and releasing endorphins. Try getting outdoors when its still light out even if it’s just a short walk, jog or cycle, as lack of light is thought to be a contributing factor to SAD in individuals. If you’re unable to get outside, try doing some kind of physical activity indoors such as using a treadmill or bike, or completing an indoor workout.
  2. Healthy diet – Food has a direct impact on your mental wellbeing and the way you feel. It can be easy to want to indulge in unhealthy foods when feeling low, but also to not eat enough! Therefore eating a well-balanced diet is vital to keep your mind and body healthy and functioning well and can prevent you from feeling sluggish and fatigued, boosting your energy and consequently mood throughout the colder days.
  3. Light box – A popular option for sufferers of SAD is to purchase a light lamp. The use of light lamps, which is often referred to as light therapy, works by producing light brighter than an average bulb which is intended to imitate sunlight. This ‘sunlight’ can help the body produce melatonin, the hormone which makes you sleepy, and serotonin, the hormone which is responsible for mood regulation and producing happiness. Using a Light lamp for 20-30 minutes when you wake up has been shown to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms of SAD and therefore is a good investment for regular sufferers.
  4. Seek help – If you feel like you are struggling too much to handle on your own, please do seek help from a doctor or another mental health professional. A professional can tailor treatment to your own personal symptoms and struggles and can offer other interventions such as different kinds of therapies and the use of medication to help you through it.

We hope that these tips have been useful in informing you on ways in which you can lessen the strain that symptoms of SAD can put on your everyday life, and hope that you may be open to implementing them from day to day.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your struggles and there is always a solution. Although it can be overwhelming at first, seeking help is a normal and vital step in working towards fixing whatever problems you may be experiencing. The team here at Blue Tree Clinic are here to listen to any worries or struggles you may have, with our vast team of psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists doing everything they can to make sure they are successful in meeting your individual needs and to help enhance your mental wellbeing.