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The other evening, at around 18:30pm, I suddenly looked up from my desk to realise it was PITCH BLACK outside. I had a sudden rush of nostalgia for long, never-ending summer nights, still being able to see your cocktail on the table in front of you at 10pm. I miss summer, but I can also appreciate autumn and winter – cosy nights with your heating on, hot chocolates and bracing walks.

 

There is a darker side to the seasons changing though, if you’ll pardon the pun. As the nights draw in and more people are getting up when it’s dark and finishing work in the dark, it’s not surprising that this can affect your psyche.

 

Could You Be SAD?

SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although most people feel a little down when winter hits, 6% of the population are affected by SAD with symptoms severe enough to disrupt their lives.

 

Symptoms usually begin in September and can last up until April – which is a large chunk of the year. The exact causes of SAD are unclear – but it is said to stem from the lack of bright light (daylight and sunlight) in winter (vitamin D), causing a biochemical imbalance in the brain.

 

Some of us need a lot more light than others for their body to function normally. When light hits the backs of our eyes, messages are sent to our brain which control sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood and activity. So when the levels of light are low, these functions may slow down.

 

What Are The Symptoms of SAD?

The symptoms of seasonal affective disorder are not limited to the below, but it’s a good place to start. As always, if you’re struggling, please speak to your GP in the first instance.

 

  • Sleep issues: this can look like oversleeping, but not feeling refreshed and difficulty staying awake, and also waking up in the night
  • Lethargy: do you feel that you’re too tired to cope and everything is an effort?
  • Overeating: this can be seen in craving for carbohydrates and sweet foods, potentially leading to weight gain
  • Depression: in feelings of despair, misery, guilt, anxiety, hopelessness, and where normal tasks become frustratingly difficult
  • Social problems: are you avoiding seeing family and friends, having irritability, and are unable to handle stress?
  • Physical symptoms: this can look like joint pain, stomach problems and a lowered resistance to infection

 

 

How Can I Stop or Manage my SAD?

If you have some of the above symptoms, see your doctor for an assessment. They will recommend the right form of treatment for you.

However, there are some things you can do yourself to improve your day-to-day life on your own – some of them are super simple!

 

#1 Take A Vitamin D Supplement

Vitamin D is an easy and inexpensive way to help reduce the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. 90% of your essential vitamin D comes from your skin’s unprotected exposure to the sun, however during the winter months (October to March) the sun’s ultraviolet rays are not strong enough for the body to synthesise into vitamin D. So, you can take a daily vitamin D supplement to protect you against the effects of SAD.

 

#2 Invest In A SAD Alarm

There’s nothing worse than being blasted out of sleep by an offensive, loud alarm. It sets you up for the day feeling stressed, and it’s worse when it’s still dark outside. You could benefit from a wake-up light, which is an alarm clock that mimics a sunrise to wake you. Lumie invented the very first wake-up light and there’s now a whole range to choose from. These ‘dawn simulators’ can help to keep your sleep-wake cycle on track and boost mood and energy – especially first thing.p

#3 Get Outside

Usually, I’d suggest going on holiday to a warmer climate to get those rays in, but that’s not really happening for anyone at the moment (unless you’re Kim Kardashian!). Instead, try to make use of the few hours of light during the day and go for a walk during your lunch hour to grab a little winter sun. Just being outside can clear the cobwebs.

 

#4 Use A Lightbox

Exposure to bright light every day by using a light box or a similar bright light therapy device may help. For most people, sitting in front of a light box for between 15 and 45 minutes a day (not staring at the light but allowing it to reach their eyes) will be sufficient to alleviate the symptoms.

Do the changing seasons affect your lifestyle and hold you back? Let us know!

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