The Change in Seasons
Our environment impacts how we feel, as well as the situations we’re in.
What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that you experience during particular seasons or times of year. Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life, but can get worse during these seasons.
It’s like having your own portable black cloud.
It’s common to be affected by changing seasons and weather, or to have times of year when you feel more or less comfortable. E.g. mood or energy levels drop with change in temperature, and different sleeping/eating patterns..
What are the symptoms of SAD?
It’s different for different people, varies season to season.
- lack of energy
- finding it hard to concentrate
- not wanting to see people
- sleep problems, such as sleeping more or less than usual, difficulty waking up, or difficulty falling or staying asleep
- feeling sad, low, tearful, guilty or hopeless
- changes in your appetite, for example feeling more hungry or wanting more snacks
- being more prone to physical health problems, such as colds, infections or other illnesses
- losing interest in sex or physical contact
- If you also have other mental health problems, you might find that things get worse at times when you’re affected by SAD.
|Winter SAD |
Practical day to day tips
If SAD affects you during winter, there are particular things you could try that might help. You could: Make the most of natural light. It might help to spend time in natural light, for example going for walks, spending time in parks or gardens, or simply sitting near a window. This seems to be helpful if you experience SAD in winter. If this doesn’t work, try vitamin D supplements or a UV sunlamp.
Without enough natural light, mood will drop. Plan ahead for winter. For example, try to make meals in advance and freeze them if you know you are likely to lack the energy to do this during the most difficult period. Talk to someone (peer support, friends, family, professional e.g. GP, therapist, A&E. Keep a diary. Plan for more difficult times. Learn ways to relax (mindfulness, meditation, muscle relaxation) Look after your physical health (diet & exercise).
Try to get some natural light during the day just by being outside, maybe tidying up the garden or taking a walk. Exercise in natural light is helpful but not always possible. Feel proud of yourself when you accomplish something, no matter how small it might seem to you. Did you get out of bed today? Did you shower? Did you make your own meal? Then pat yourself on the back, because I know how hard it is when you are struggling with SAD.
How can I help myself?
I shut the darkness out rather than “it” shutting me in. I close the blinds before it becomes fully dark, I light lamps rather than have the main light on and I light candles around the house so there is light around my home.
|Summer SAD – practical day to day tips |
If SAD affects you during hot weather, there are particular things you could try that might help.
You could: Drink plenty of water so that you stay hydrated.
See our page on food and mood for more information.
Look for ways to get shade, such as wearing wide-brimmed hats or sunglasses.
Visit indoor places. Staying inside all the time could make you feel isolated. It could help to try doing activities indoors, like visiting your local library or going to the cinema. Plan ahead for summer. For example, try to avoid going outside at the hottest times of day where possible.
Talk to someone
It can be hard to reach out when you’re not feeling well, but it might help to share how you’re feeling. If you don’t feel you can talk to the people around you or you need additional support, you could contact a helpline.
Go to www.mindspacemk.com/other-services for a full list of charities, services, hotlines and advice.
Keep a diary
It helps to keep a note of your symptoms, including when they start and if particular things seem to trigger them, including changes in the weather. This could help you notice patterns.
Plan for more difficult times
Finding patterns helps you plan for difficult times. For example, you could:
- try to re-arrange stressful activities or events for another time
- plan activities that help improve your mood (e.g. bath, swimming, reading, meditation, yoga)
- plan ahead, such as stocking up on things you need or preparing early for special occasions such as Christmas
- try to make more spare time to rest or do things you enjoy
- create a self-care box. (CRISIS/HOPE BOX,we made these 02/12/2019 at MindSpaceMK)
December is dark but the festive lights and cheerfulness are an antidote and I now put up my Christmas decorations really early (1st Dec) as a way of coping with my SAD symptoms and stretching out the ‘fairy-light antidote” for a whole month. However, when all the festive cheer has gone, I find January and February really tough.
Learn ways to relax… How can we find ways to:
- Manage stress.
- Try some relaxation techniques.
- Spend time in nature. .
I get up early, wrap up warm, put on my pedometer and walk in the dark and enjoy the solitude … By the time people are up and about, I’m back home having walked a good few miles and feel so much better for it.
Look after your physical health
Looking after your physical health can make a difference to how you feel emotionally. For example, it can help to:
- Try to get enough sleep.
- Think about your diet
- Try to do some physical activity
- Try to look after your hygiene..
- Try to avoid drugs and alcohol.