Let’s talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

With us now being in thick of Winter, you may find with the office shutdown looming, the dark mornings and nights can become more of a hindrance.

Our to do lists are longer with Christmas deadlines to meet but leaving the office can mean walking into what feels like the dead of night, and that can actually have a serious effect on our mental health.

If you recognise that you’ve been feeling down in the dumps now the days are shorter, or your colleague has started to seem a bit quieter, you or they may be suffering with Season Affective Disorder.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons.

It typically starts in late Autumn or early Winter and ends during the Spring and Summer months.

Although it can still occur within the Summer months.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The typical signs of SAD mirror typical depression include low energy, sleeping more, craving carbohydrates, overeating resulting in weight gain and withdrawing from social interactions.

Although it’s not actually known what causes SAD, it is thought that the decline in sunlight during winter months disrupts the bodies circadian rhythms.

This is basically your body’s natural internal clock that dictates when you go to sleep and wake up.

It can also be caused by the lack of production of melatonin and serotonin due to the lack of sunlight.

For some people, these symptoms can be severe and have a significant impact on their day-to-day activities.

But now you know about it, what can actually be done to help improve your mood?


What can you do to beat SAD?

Without hindering your work life, there are a number of things to try throughout the day to beat the winter blues:

  • Increasing self-care activities: more yoga, meditation, relaxation activities (baths, reading a book, resting).
  • Working out regularly to increase endorphins and energy, which can also mirror as something for you to look forward to in the evenings. Plus, it doesn’t have to be a boring exercise or just joining a gym, there are many sports to choose from!
  • A simple task but if you can, in the office get those curtains/blinds to let in as much sunlight as possible.
  • Have a more controlled approach to your diet and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating more complex carbohydrates, including sweet potatoes and whole grains, with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Getting outside in the sunlight for a brisk walk every day to increase vitamin D and create energy. Perhaps try this before work to try and see the sunlight beforehand.


Bear in mind…

While SAD is still a form of depression, it’s distinguishable from general depression because it has a recurring seasonal pattern.

However, it has been reported that there are many factors that contribute towards developing SAD, including:

  • Being female (women are four times more likely to suffer with SAD)
  • More common in colder climates
  • Already suffering with depression or bipolar disorder
  • A family history of depression
  • Being a young adult

If you or a colleague feel that you could potentially be suffering with SAD, or you have been known to suffer it in the past, you could approach your manager with your concerns.

They may take steps to help beat SAD, with regular breaks or if you would prefer, you could talk to your GP.