Updated: Jan 20
What is seasonal Depression?
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) usually affects people in the winter months, however occasionally people can feel worse in the summer months. The exact cause of SAD is unknown but it is believed to be linked to less sun exposure during the winter. If we do not get enough sunlight, the hypothalamus (located in the brain and links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland) may stop functioning properly. Even if your symptoms are not as severe as those with SAD, the winter months definitely take their toll on our mood and health. So how does lack of sun affect our hypothalamus?
It can cause an increase in melatonin which is the hormone that makes us sleepy. If your melatonin levels are high it can cause sleepiness throughout the day making you feel fatigued and less productive.
It can lower your serotonin levels; serotonin is the hormone that affects our mood, appetite and sleep. This might also be the reason that we find ourselves eating more through the winter months, add that higher levels of melatonin, we need to ensure that we are prioritising good quality sleep.
Your body clock can easily get confused (known as your circadian rhythm). We are designed to sleep and rise with the sun but our daily lives do not allow us this luxury, instead we are forced awake by alarms and in the winter months, go to bed long after it's dark.
Below I have listed some SAD disorder tips that might help you with how to deal with seasonal depression and how to cope with winter depression.
What can we do to beat Seasonal Depression?
Exercise - do whatever exercise makes you happy, it would be no good going for a long run if you do not enjoy running. Think dancing, yoga, walks, weights - whatever makes you feel better
Get outside, walk or drive to get a change of scenery - sometimes we get bored of seeing the same thing day in day out, so hop in the car and go further afield, then when you get there get out and go for a nice walk, allow yourself to be fully present and take in the new surroundings.
Focus on your sleep - as I discussed here sleep is vital for your health and wellbeing and in the winter it's important to make sure that we rest, this way we can try to combat the feeling of fatigue through the dark mornings.
Ensure that you are eating a healthy nutritionally dense diet - we all know that our body needs nutrients to thrive and the winter is a great way to make comforting stews and soups packed full of vegetables.
Journal - I am a huge fan of journaling, which is why I post my weekly roundups, journaling is a great way to get your thoughts onto paper and out of your head. It also allows us to self-reflect and to learn about what makes us happy or sad so we can build a healthier happier life for ourselves.
Get outside at every opportunity when the sun is out - the sun is vital as it provides our bodies with Vitamin D which is great for helping alleviate depression as well as keeping our bones strong and healthy.
Along with the above tips, make sure that you are spending time on self-care, it is so important to put ourselves first from time to time as this can greatly improve our mood and wellbeing.
This year, we unfortunately also have Covid-19 and a second lockdown to contend with, which in itself is making life very difficult. If you are suffering mentally please reach out to those around you or services provided by the NHS and other charitable organisations. No one should go through this alone and there are people out there to help you.