7 Ways to Help Overcome Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
What is SAD?
Feeling low from time to time is completely normal. But when it begins to affect your day-to-day life and overall well-being, it may be something more. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a specific type of depression that affects some individuals at certain times in the year, particularly during the winter months.
More than just the winter blues? While many of us suffer from lower mood and more fatigue in the winter months, the shortage of daylight can cause significant problems for some people.
It is sometimes known as “winter depression” because the symptoms usually appear with the arrival of autumn or winter. 29% of adults experience some symptoms of SAD at this time of year, including low energy levels, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
Symptoms of SAD can include:
• Losing interest in activities normally enjoyed
• Having low energy
• Having problems with sleeping
• Experiencing changes in appetite or weight
• Feeling sluggish or agitated
• Having difficulty concentrating
• Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
• Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
• Low Mood
If you are worried you may be experiencing SAD, there are several things you can do. Speaking with your GP should be the first step. If you’re looking for small ways you can start improving your mood, ensuring you get outside and make the most of natural daylight can have a positive boost on your mood. Exercising can also help to boost your serotonin production, giving you a natural boost.
Talking therapies and medication are two of the most suggested ways of combating SAD. Ensuring you are getting enough vitamins including omega-3, omega 6, and vitamin D can also have a significant impact on your mood and overall sense of wellbeing.
7 Ways to Help Overcome SAD:
Spend time in Daylight
Daylight can have a big impact on our mood. Make the most of daylight by opening blinds, sitting closer to the window at home or work, or even trimming back tree branches to let in more light.
Get outside on your break, take a long walk, eat lunch in the park or simply sit on a bench and soak up the winter sun.
What if it’s not sunny? Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help, especially if you spend time outdoors within two hours of waking up.
Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, boost your self-esteem, lift your mood and improve sleep. You could go for a walk in a new part of town or get outside and do some gardening ready for spring.
Even if you don’t have a garden, there are plenty of free online home workouts that you can follow along with to get moving. Exercising can also help to boost your serotonin production, giving you a natural boost.
Self-care can take many forms and can fit with personal preferences, time and facilities available. Find time to relax, whether it’s doing a hobby that you enjoy or finding a new activity to enjoy.
From working your way through your list of books to read, to experimenting with a new recipe, there are many ways we can switch off. Try moving away from phones, tablets and computers, and disconnect.
One of the very sad aspects of the restrictions was the impact on families and relationships. Hopefully this has served as a reminder of the importance of our relationships. Spend time with your family and friends.
You could combine this with exercise and getting outdoors, or simply pick up the phone for a conversation.
Gratitude and Kindness
Having experienced such restrictions on our personal liberties during lockdowns, perhaps the positive takeaway is the acknowledgement of all that is good in our lives.
Developing a habit of recognising the good things in life and being grateful for them, as well as being kind to yourself, as well as other people, can lead to positive and fulfilling feelings.
Journaling can be a great way to reflect and gives us something to look back on during times of difficulty.
Some people find that light boxes can help by simulate sunlight exposure. The brain is fooled into producing less melatonin and resulting in you feeling less sleepy.
There are lots of apps and online resources available, giving you access to a wide range of activities such as breathing exercises, guided meditations, mindfulness activities, visualisation exercises and positive affirmations.
Whilst self-care is an important source of help, such as the tips suggested above, external professional help is also sometimes necessary. Your GP should always be consulted with health concerns, whether they are physical symptoms or persistent mental symptoms such as low mood, stress, or anxiety.
Whilst it can be difficult to get a GP appointment, the sooner the request is made, the sooner the appointment will be and the first step towards recovery.
Hypnotherapy for SAD
If SAD is seasonal, can we really overcome these feelings? Or are we stuck feeling this way until the seasons shift? Depression is often a symptom of unhelpful thinking habits that lead to excessive worrying and rumination. This constant worrying leads to high levels of anxiety, causing mental and physical exhaustion.
Hypnotherapy can be a great aid in reducing stress and anxiety, thus allowing the solution-focused brain to function more efficiently and find ways of dealing with problems more effectively. During hypnosis, the subconscious part of the brain can also be engaged in learning new and more helpful ways of thinking, so that depression is less likely to occur again in the future.
Hypnotherapy can help you to reframe negative thoughts, feelings, or perspectives around the time of year. This can stop negative thought patterns from taking hold, instead using positive suggestions whilst to create more helpful ways of thinking and encourage a relaxed state of mind.
Hypnotherapy has been widely used primarily for people who want to break bad habits, manage pain, and counter phobia. But there are also scientific studies that suggest hypnotherapy may work well in alleviating anxiety and depression.
Hypnotherapy works for depression because it targets the underlying basis of depression and completes the ‘unfinished business’ that otherwise continues to recycle as self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviours.
With hypnotherapy, the person can go down deeper to their traumatic experiences, memories, and stored emotions, which means they can quickly release them from the mind and body.
If you find yourself experiencing common side effects of SAD including low energy or trouble sleeping, hypnotherapy techniques may be able to help encourage a more positive mindset, uncover any underlying problems, and discover an approach that works for you.