Does Winter Make You SAD? | A Guide to Surviving Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder, often shortened to SAD and also known as the winter blues, is a condition caused mainly by a lack of sunlight in the autumn and winter months.

How do I know if I have SAD?

There are a number of symptoms. You may have SAD if you:

- Have a persistent low mood
- Lose interest in normal, everyday activities
- Feel irritable for no apparent reason
- Have feelings of despair, guilt and/or worthlessness
- Feel lethargic and tired during the day
- Experience a lack of libido
- Have trouble sleeping or sleep more than usual
- Find it extremely difficult to get up in the morning
- Crave starchy carbohydrates
- Have a significant lift in mood come springtime

You may not have all these symptoms and the intensity of each will differ from person to person. Some people will just have a slightly low mood whereas others may feel suicidal.  

How can I treat SAD?

It's important to seek help if you think you may have SAD, especially if it's so extreme you're experiencing thoughts of self harm or suicide. Speak to your GP who will be able to decide on the right course of action for you. This could be cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), light therapy or possibly antidepressants. 

He or she may also advise you of some natural ways to boost your mood, including:

1. Getting as much natural sunlight as possible during the day. Try going for a walk in the park or just around the block.

2. Exercising regularly, preferably daily but 30 minutes 3 times a week as a minimum.

3. Eating the right things. Cut down on processed foods and eat plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Also, foods such as turkey, cheese, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds are high in tryptophan which the brain converts to serotonin, the 'happy hormone'.

4. Investing in a lightbox (more about this in the useful links at the bottom).

5. Keeping your mind occupied with something you enjoy, like reading, writing or taking up a new hobby.

6. Trying a herbal remedy, such as St John's Wort.

7. Talking to friends and family about how you're feeling. You'll discover that SAD is more common than you think and you don't need to suffer alone.

Don't forget that these feelings are just temporary. Seasonal affective disorder is just that: seasonal. It usually eases up as spring arrives and the days start to get longer with more natural light. If you have the same symptoms throughout the year, this is probably not SAD but depression, and again you should consult your GP.  

Useful Links

If you think you may be suffering from SAD or just want to find out more about the condition, there are many online resources available to help you. Here are a few of the best I've found (I'm not affiliated with any of them):

NHS Choices - The UK's National Health Service website has a page dedicated to SAD. Medical sites like this are always the best option for accurate information. - Mind is mental health charity. They have a lot of useful info on their site about the symptoms, causes and treatments of SAD.

Wikipedia - For those like me who can't resist Wiki, here's their page about SAD. - Trusted UK lightbox brand for treating SAD. I bought their 'bodyclock' back in 2005 and have sworn by it ever since. - Seller of Happylight energy lamps in the USA.

Have you ever suffered from seasonal affective disorder? I'd love to know how you dealt with it. Please let me know in the comments - it could help others going through the same thing.

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