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Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder







While seasonal changes can be unpleasant for all, sometimes the struggle to adapt to seasonal change can lead to depression. This form of depression affects up to 20% of the population. Furthermore, it is four times more common for women than men.

In most cases, SAD can go undiagnosed, and even those who have been diagnosed have often spent several years with the condition before getting help. With this, getting to know the signs of SAD can help to ensure you and any loved ones who may suffer from the disorder get the help they need.

Spotting The Signs Of SAD

Sleep problems

Whether it is sleeping too much or not being able to fall asleep, seasonal affective disorder can disrupt sleep patterns. This can make sufferers feel lethargic and lacking in energy. Consequently, they may be reluctant to commit to plans, meet up with friends or complete everyday tasks due to their tiredness and lethargy.


Feeling guilty

Another common sign of SAD, which many people don’t realise is linked to the disorder, is an overwhelming feeling of guilt. This could be a feeling that you have let yourself or others down. Sometimes, this guilt may lead to a sense of hopelessness or a feeling of despair. Often, SAD sufferers will feel very low throughout the winter and could be fearful, apathetic or anxious.

Comfort eating

In the colder winter months, it is normal for most people to reach out for comfort food. However, continuous snacking and constant seeking out comfort food are other indicators of seasonal affective disorder. Weight gain and overeating are symptomatic of the winter blues.

Feeling ill

Many people who have SAD will struggle with a weakened immune system. This means they are often more susceptible to colds, flu and other infections. Unfortunately, the feeling of continuous illness can cause the sufferer to plummet further into depression and despair.


Social problems

Another common sign of seasonal affective disorder is that many people with the disorder will close themselves off from friends and loved ones. It can cause relationship problems, especially as another symptom of SAD is a loss of libido and disinterest in physical contact. With friends and family, it may feel like the person is closing themselves off from the world, avoiding interaction and not making any effort to connect with others.

Other signs of SAD

  • A feeling of heaviness in the body especially heavy arms or legs

  • Decreased physical activity

  • Feeling irritable or annoyed

  • Struggle to concentrate or focus

  • Feeling sensitive, especially surrounding the idea of rejection

  • Carb cravings.

How To Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

Lightboxes

As SAD is linked to a reaction to lack of sunlight, lightboxes and light therapy can be excellent treatment options. Using a light that mimics the brightness of daylight for up to an hour each day can increase energy levels in the body which can reduce the symptoms of SAD. So much so that studies so far indicate that light therapy is effective in up to 85% of cases.

Journaling

Monitoring mood and energy levels can help you to take a step back from your feelings and allow you to objectively analyse what makes you feel good during the winter. From exercise to interacting with friends, you can start to determine what makes you feel good during the winter and come up with a plan to incorporate more of the feel-good activities throughout the season.

Talking treatments

Studies have also shown that talking therapies such as life coaching, counselling, hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming can be effective at giving people the tools they need to cope and combat the symptoms of SAD. I regularly see clients at my hypnotherapy practice who need support with the winter blues. Using your symptoms, I can then create a bespoke blended therapy package to give you the support you need to feel good throughout winter.

Daily nature

Just ten minutes a day in nature, such as a walk in the woods or even your local park or gardens can be a great form of eco-therapy. Walks in nature are known to boost moods. Furthermore, giving yourself a goal of getting out for a short walk each day can give you structure, routine and motivation even when you feel like hibernating. I guarantee you’ll feel better for getting outdoors, whatever the weather, so you can soak up the health benefits of the natural environment.

Winter mantras

Meditation can be a great way to give power to your mind and not let the symptoms of SAD bring you down. Now is a great time to set yourself some winter mantras to use in your practice. On meditation apps such as Insight Timer, you can find plenty of winter mantras and meditations to get you through the season. Alternatively, create your own and incorporate positive statements that are personal to you.

Make plans

You’ll be less likely to detach yourself from the rest of the world if you make plans well in advance that you want to stick to. Try to book a social activity once or twice a week to give you a chance to connect with friends, without giving yourself an overwhelming calendar and endless to-do list. These events don’t have to be big nights out, they could be as simple as going to a yoga class with a friend or meeting up for a quick coffee.

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