What is S.A.D and how can you manage it?

Flashback to Sunday morning and I’m sat in a heap on the floor sobbing. Sobbing for absolutely no reason. I can’t stop. I touched on this briefly in this post about Comparison and it’s perils.

When winter arrives many people get a feeling of lethargy, find it difficult to get out of bed and get cravings for delicious carby foods. However, for some people this feeling is intense, all-consuming and makes it difficult to carry on as ‘normal’. I’ve been known to sob uncontrollably at the slightest hiccup, sleep through multiple alarms – I feel uninspired and empty. After much coercing I went to speak to a Dr about it and they diagnosed me with S.A.D.

For those of you who are like – ‘say whaaaat?’ – S.A.D stands for Seasonally Affective Disorder and I thought this was a myth until this year. It’s more commonly known as Winter Depression. It means that as the days get shorter I feel worse – like a plant that doesn’t see enough light.

Symptoms:

  • Feeling ‘low’ or shitty all the time
  • A loss of interest in normal everyday activities
  • Irritability (being an insufferable bitch)
  • Feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  •  Lethargic, lacking in energy and sleepy during the day
  • Can’t get out of bed in the morning and oversleeping
  • Craving of carbs and in my case weight gain

Causes:

The main theory is that a lack of sunlight might stop a part of the brain working properly but ultimately it varies from person to person.

  • Over-production of melatonin – this is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy meaning the body may produce it in higher than normal levels
  • Under-production of serotonin – this is a hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. More commonly a lack of sunlight may lead to lower serotonin levels, which is linked to feelings of depression
  • Alterations in Circadian Rhythm –this is your internal body clock – it’s almost like seasonal jet-lag which leaves you feeling drained and unhappy.

What can you do to fight it off – without taking medication?

This was something pretty huge for me. I don’t even like taking paracetamol so when the Dr suggested she could prescribe me something (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors aka SSRI’s) I said – nah I’d try literally everything else. I know that this isn’t the right route for everyone but for me I decided that what I needed was to make lifestyle changes.

  • Getting as much natural sunlight as possible
  • Exercising regularly I have a gym membership that I really need to use more!
  • Managing your stress levels and workload
  • Light Therapy – there are special lamps which simulate exposure to sunlight
  • Vitamin D supplements
  • CBT – cognitive behavioural therapy which is focussed on thought processes

So for me the key things I will be doing this winter will be taking walks, working from home once per week, taking supplements, going to the gym regularly and using my S.A.D lamp.

One misconception of S.A.D lamps is that the sunrise lamps like the Lumie Bodyclock lamp do the same job as one of the medically accredited UV lamps. This is not the case – they might do wonders on regulating the body clock to help you get out of bed they actually don’t simulate sunlight. To do this I picked up a Lifemax medically certified S.A.D lamp on amazon and it really helped last year.

If anyone else feels shitty at this time of year.. know you’re not alone.

6 Comments

  1. October 24, 2016 / 9:13 am

    Love, love love this post. I haven’t been diagnosed with S.A.D, but I definitely notice in myself that when the Winter months come around it can really affect my mood. Reading your list of symptoms and causes was really interesting – now I’m so much more aware of what I should be doing to keep my mood and energy up x

    • Lisette @ Spoke + Co
      October 24, 2016 / 10:31 am

      I’m so glad that this has helped! I always thought I was being a bit crazy feeling so blue in Winter but then I found out it’s totally normal and that most people feel a bit shitty – some just worse than others xx

  2. October 24, 2016 / 11:47 am

    Yeah, I really need a proper SAD lamp. I suffer from the heaviest SAD anyone has ever had, I swear x.x As soon as it starts getting dark and cold, I am a zombie. On a good day.

    • Lisette @ Spoke + Co
      October 24, 2016 / 12:01 pm

      I highly recommend them – not the pretend sad lamps make sure you get one of the medically accredited ones. It’s amazing the difference it makes xx

  3. November 13, 2016 / 9:51 pm

    I do find it really hard to find the motivation to get out of bed when its dark! As a way of combining exercise & natural light – go running or walking outside as much as you can – and it’s cheaper than the gym! I read yesterday that a 15 minute walk can apparently cut chocolate craving’s by 50%… not sure how true that is but its definitely worth a shot – and you can reward yourself with chocolate when you get in 😉 . xx

    • Lisette @ Spoke + Co
      November 13, 2016 / 10:56 pm

      That’s an amazing little tip I’m all for justifying my chocolate consumption! Thanks for the tips Hannah xx