As the temperature drops and the days become darker and shorter, for many this can create winter depression which means a lack of energy and a low mood. People with SAD can also feel more sensitive, finding it harder to get out of bed, wanting to eat all the carbohydrates insight, and feeling unsociable.
If you have been suffering from these behaviours it could be that you are experiencing the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD. It has been estimated that around one out of every 15 people experience some aspect of SAD, with 20% experiencing milder effects, and surprisingly only 12% of people know that they suffer from it. However, this year could be even worse for some who may be suffering from some form of SAD, on top of the changes that have come with the global pandemic.
SAD is thought to be brought on by the shorter and darker days that come with the autumn and winter months which can affect serotonin levels and your hormone melatonin. The lack of sunlight is thought to lead to increased production of melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone, as well as a decrease in the production of the happy hormone, serotonin. In addition to this, our sleep-wake cycles will change due to these shorter and darker days, which can take some time to adjust to.
But there are some basic treatments for SAD, and here they are…
A Healthy Diet
Now we all know a healthy diet will benefit us throughout all aspects of our lives, eating a balanced and nutritious diet is crucial in helping the body reach its optimal level. People who suffer from SAD will understand that even when trying to have a balanced diet, during these months they crave sugar and white starchy carbs- but unfortunately, these foods will create further cravings.
Ensure you are eating the right types of carbohydrates, complex carbs which do not impact the body’s sugar levels as much. High-fibre fruits such as bananas and apples, beans, nuts, whole grains, and green vegetables are fantastic complex carbohydrates. Adding high-protein foods will also assist in lowering sugar cravings.
Go For a Walk
Due to the lack of sunlight in these months, getting as much natural light can do amazing things for your mood. Natural sunlight can also increase the body’s production of Vitamin D, and walking in nature is able to reduce anxiety, stress and high blood pressure. If you are working most of the day whether in the office, at home or anywhere inside, use your breaks to get as much natural light as possible or try to position your work station by a window.
Again, due to the lack of sunlight, a lot of people can become vitamin D deficient. Therefore taking vitamin D as a supplement is highly recommended not only for the colder months but all-year-round, especially if you live in a country further away from the equator. The best vitamin D supplements should be of at least 600 IU daily.
There are also pieces of technology that can imitate the effects of daylight, such as a light box or SAD lamps which imitate sunlight by using artificial bright light, these are perfect to have on your desk and work by tricking the body’s cells into perceiving it as sunlight. When it comes to light box therapy you only need between 20-60 minutes a day to see a difference. Just remember a cool-white fluorescent light is best at around 10,000 lux.
Speak to Your Doctor
Although sometimes overlooked, SAD is considered a mental health issue, and if you are struggling with the symptoms of it, it is best to speak to your GP. They can check if it is actually SAD you are suffering from and not another ailment, they are also able to test for vitamin D deficiency. So do not hesitate to contact your doctor if struggling to cope.