Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - what is it & how to help.

by - 17:19:00

Hello lovelies!

I hope you're all doing well. Today's post is about SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can be quite common but it is a type of depression that comes and goes in seasonal patterns. It is more common in Winter than most of the other seasons which is why you may have heard of it as 'Winter depression' instead. Of course not everyone suffers with this.

What is SAD? 

As I have said, Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression that people experience at a particular time of the year or during certain seasons. You'll probably find that the majority of us are affected by seasonal changes, it's pretty normal to feel cheerful and more upbeat when the sun is shining or you may find that you eat or sleep more during the colder seasons. But if you suffer with SAD then the effect of the change of the season will be much greater on your mood and how you feel as a whole, it can really affect your day to day life.

It is more common for those that experience SAD to have it during the winter but it does still affect some of us in the Summer. Researching into this, it's quite interesting to learn that SAD is most common in countries like the UK as there are bigger changes in the weather.

What are the symptoms? 

There are quite a few symptoms that you may experience when dealing with seasonal affective disorder, these include: 

A persistent low mood. You may feel sad, low, tearful, maybe you feel you have let others or yourself down, feeling hopeless or sometimes feeling nothing. You might find that you have really low energy and struggle to do everyday tasks, or you might find that you lose interest or pleasure in your usual day to day activities. 

Issues with sleeping. You might find you are having trouble getting any sleep or that you sleep for long amounts of time and struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. You could also feel tired throughout the day and all you want to do is sleep. 

Your anxiety might be feeling worse than usual. You may find that you're struggling to cope with everyday stresses, or you constantly feel tense and anxious. This then might lead to panic attacks. 

You may find that you're getting ill more. Some people with SAD may have a lowered immune system during the winter which means you can be more likely to get colds, infections or other illnesses. 

You may crave more food that's not good for you and over-eat. You might find that you 'comfort eat' and snack more than usual. 

It could affect your social life and relationships. You may become more irritable or you just don't want to see people or even step foot outside. 

You may not experience all of these at once, they're just some symptoms that may occur. Most find that their symptoms vary from year to year and others find that they get better or worse as they get older. There is a small percentage of people who have very severe symptoms and find it difficult to carry out daily tasks without receiving treatment.

What causes SAD? 

There are many theories behind what causes SAD as the exact cause is still not really understood. The main theory is the reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days in Autumn and Winter. It is said that the lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain called the hypothalamus from working properly. This would then cause several things to happen: 

Your body may then produce more melatonin than normal which is a hormone that makes you feel tired, if you read my previous post on sleeping you'll see that I went into detail about it there. However the reason why we start to feel more tired in the evenings is because when it gets darker our body starts producing melatonin which is why they tell you not to look at a laptop or your phone just before you go to sleep because the light from it will disrupt this. 

The lack of light may also lead to less serotonin being released. I'm sure you've heard of this before but serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. Usually if you're doing something fun, or eating something you really enjoy you're more than likely releasing more serotonin. Therefore if we start to produce less of it, it then starts to make us feel low all the time - this is often linked to feelings of depression. 

It can also effect your body's internal clock. Our bodies usually use the sunlight to calculate the times of the day. For example in the morning you might get bits of light come through your curtains/blinds and your body will naturally wake itself up because it recognises the light with morning. Therefore having less light can disrupt our body clock and then lead to symptoms of SAD.

Treatment and self-help? 

There are plenty of ways we can look after ourselves: 

Make the most of the natural light! This may not cure it as there's people who work outside that still experience this issue however it is still worth taking the opportunity. Go for a walk, I know it's cold but wrap up warm, have your umbrella with you and enjoy that light and fresh air. I know that when I'm feeling rubbish going outside really helps me - I think that's most likely down to the fact that I'm always stuck inside so it's also a great change of scenery for me. 

Try to avoid stress. I know its easier said than done believe me, but perhaps try and be more organised, write down your to-do lists so you know exactly what you need to do, or in the Summer plan ahead to the activities you need to do in the Winter - for example Christmas shopping - I know this can be a nightmare sometimes especially going into a massive shopping centre and being smothered by hoards of people - so plan ahead, if you see something in a shop in the Summer and you think 'I know who would love that' then buy it and there you go, one Christmas present down! 

Perhaps plan to do less in the Winter, pamper yourself more, or do a few relaxation techniques like mindfulness. 

Exercise and eat well. Exercise - possibly something you don't want to do much of in the colder months but it really does help.  It can help to keep your mood upbeat and make you feel more energetic. You don't have to drag yourself out to the gym, there's plenty of exercises you can do in your home, there's exercise DVD's, apps you can follow - there's so many alternatives nowadays! 

As I said above you might find that you snack more in the Winter which is fine of course, but why not make them healthy snacks? It is common with people that experience SAD that they want to eat more carbohydrates so try and balance that a bit, have some fresh fruit and vegetables and perhaps take extra vitamins.  

If it's something you can afford to do then go somewhere with more light. Go on holiday to a sunnier climate as this might help to reduce the symptoms - I'm sure everyone gets super excited when you know there's a holiday coming up too! Although this could just be a temporary treatment as some people who do suffer with SAD can often get worse when going between light levels in a short space of time. 

Of course if you're struggling to help yourself then please do go and speak to your GP about it, there's professional treatments out there, may that be counselling or medication. 

My self-care reading recommendation: 

I might make this a usual thing now as I do love recommending a book that has really helped me! Today I am recommending: Anxiety, Panicking about Panic by Joshua Fletcher. I can't recommend this book enough, it was one of the first books about anxiety that I had ever read and it helped me so much. It made me think about anxiety differently and how we can learn to get our anxiety to a level we can cope with. Have a look here:

Thank you for reading!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and learnt a lot. If you find you're someone that experiences SAD then I hope this has helped in any way - or if you know someone who does then I hope this has given you good information on how you can help them out!

If you want any more information check out mind and the NHS


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  1. I always found SAD interesting to learn about! I find it so true especially in the middle of winter. It gets so depressing. I totally agree with your tips. So important to try to stay away from stress, as well as to exercise and eat well! As much as I dislike working out LOL xx

    1. Yeah same! It was an interesting one to research, I know a few people who suffer with it also. Ahaha yeah I'm the same, it can be a struggle for me to do some exercise but it always helps me to feel good afterwards! xx

  2. So I grew up in New England and winters were crazy long and crazy dark. Almost everyone I know changed in the winter, and it was really serious for some folks. I'm glad SAD is becoming a more well-known thing these days.
    I live in Texas now, so it's not a concern for me anymore. 😃

    1. Yes definitely it's good that it is becoming more well known! Glad it isn't a concern for you anymore :) x

  3. I have BPD and usually go through a "gray" period from October to March. I moved to Florida 11 years ago and the year round sunshine helps a lot.

  4. Love this post! It's really important to try and spread more knowledge around SAD xx

  5. Really interesting post I have looked a lot into this as my nan definitely suggests from it xx

  6. You posts are always so interesting and informative Chloe! Thank you so much for sharing all your helpful tips and suggestions. I agree, going out for a walk in the sunshine is a great mood booster. That's a really handy idea about planning ahead, especially when it comes to Christmas. I'd love to make handmade cards again this year so I know I need to get thinking about it soon otherwise it is just another thing to stress about. At home exercises is an fab suggestion, at the moment I do the Yoga With Adriene videos on YouTube and really feel it improves my mood each morning. Great post lovely, thank you for sharing! <3 xx

    Bexa |

    1. Thank you so much! I've already started my Christmas shopping - although I am yet to write out a list of what to get everyone so I shall definitely do that as soon as poss! I might have to check out the Yoga videos on YouTube! :) xx

  7. A lovely post that I am sure will help people suffering with SAD. Planning ahead is such a good idea if your suffering, being able to leaver any stresses will make everyday a lot easier to cope with.

    Emma -

    1. Thank you! Yeah definitely, planning ahead is always a good idea. xx