How to overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

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Health Assured team

13 September 2022

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes with the change of the seasons. Those who experience SAD suffer from depressive symptoms during the darker winter months. But it can also affect people during spring or summertime. 

As we move into the winter months, the weather gets colder, and the days get shorter. For people experiencing SAD, this change can begin to trigger depressive symptoms. Life becomes difficult, mood plummets and negative emotions take over. This year, these worries are likely to become elevated due to the rising cost of living and financial worries.

This article will highlight the common symptoms of SAD and provide techniques to deal with these symptoms and foster positive wellbeing over the winter months.

 

Symptoms of SAD

SAD Symptoms have similarities to depression. Many sufferers will experience the symptoms at a particular time each year. Below are some common signs to look out for: 

  • Lack of energy
  • Finding it hard to concentrate
  • Sleeping problems (oversleeping & struggle sleeping)
  • Being more susceptible to physical health problems like infections, colds and illnesses
  • Feeling persistently sad or tearful
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Not enjoying the things you usually enjoy
  • Weight changes

The symptoms of SAD vary from person to person, and while the above is not an exhaustive list, it highlights some common symptoms. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in your struggles; many other people are struggling with SAD - the best thing you can do is find techniques that help you cope with and overcome these symptoms.

 

How to cope with SAD

Dealing with SAD can be overwhelming. But, there are ways to relieve the symptoms. As mentioned, SAD varies from person to person. So, what works for others might not work for you. When you find something that alleviates symptoms for you, keep at it. To help with this, we have provided a list of coping mechanisms to fall back on during tough times: 

 

More outdoor time

Some offices are dark and dreary places, at least when the sun starts setting earlier and earlier. And some employees find themselves seated at desks and cubicles far from the nearest source of natural light. Assuming the winter weather isn’t too harsh, lunchtime can be spent going for a quick walk around the block. It’s about getting as much sunlight into the workday as possible. Short outdoor meetings and coffee runs should be a priority. 

 

Counselling

Counselling can help process the difficult emotions you – or someone you know – might be experiencing. The counsellor can provide a listening ear during tough times. They can help you to find coping strategies that work for you. 

There are different types of counselling available. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tends to work the best with this kind of depression. CBT is goal oriented. It helps people to change negative thought patterns in a short time: usually about six weeks. You can get referred for counselling through your GP. But if your workplace has an employee assistance plan, you may be able to access it this way too. 

 

Self-care

Remember that these feelings won’t last forever. Self-care can help you make peace with painful emotions when they arise. It could include mindfulness, writing down emotions or practising gratitude. These snippets of reflection time will help you find space from overwhelming feelings. 

 

Physical wellbeing

Taking care of your physical health can help keep the blues at bay. Make sure you’re eating nutritious foods, regularly exercising and getting enough sleep. Group exercise classes have also been shown to boost mental health. But any physical activity you can partake in will help release endorphins and raise your energy levels. When bouts of depression hit, get moving and see if it helps. 

 

Talk to your GP 

Your GP can help. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment. It can sometimes feel daunting to take this step. But they can provide guidance and support to make it better. They will offer more information to help you understand the feelings you’re experiencing. They’ll also be able to guide you to other options that can help. 

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