Imagine Health

Winter Blues

The buzz and bliss of the summer is well and truly over. The evenings are long, dark and most likely cold and wet. Its no wonder we are all prone to the winter blues at some point or another. This is perfectly normal. However, sometimes we may find that these blues linger around for a little longer than we anticipated.

What is seasonal affective disorder (SAD)?

SAD is a form of depression. It is associated with the change of season after summertime. Symptoms often begin during Autumn when there is a gradual decrease in sunlight and temperature. These symptoms may then persist into the darker winter months and we may find ourselves feeling sapped of our energy and becoming emotional far more easily. Some signs of SAD include:

  • Feeling depressed on most days.
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Having low energy.
  • Easily agitated or upset.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Less commonly known is summer-onset SAD. In this case the symptoms of SAD may actually begin during the summer months and may be associated with difficulties sleeping, changes in appetite and increased feelings of anxiety.

What causes SAD?

It can be hard to pinpoint one exact cause of SAD, but there a number of factors which are likely to contribute to symptoms. During the winter months, the drop in levels of sunlight may knock our sleep cycle out of sync, which may contribute to feelings of depression. This drop in sunlight may also affect our levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter than helps regulate our emotions.

Treatment

  1. Increase your sunlight exposure by opening blinds and curtains in the house during the day. Opt for brighter coloured paints rather than darker ones and take advantage of the sunlight hours by getting up a little earlier or by simply sitting near a window at work.
  2. Take the time to enjoy activities and spend some time on yourself. Go for coffee with a friend or enjoy a day out with the family!
  3. Eat healthy. It can be tempting to revert back to bad eating habits after the summer months have passed, but taking the time to maintain a healthy balanced diet can really make a difference.
  4. Talk to your GP about the option of light therapy. This involves using a device such as a light box or special bulbs to simulate sunlight.

It is important to take the signs and symptoms of SAD seriously, especially if you are finding that these symptoms are lasting over a prolonged period of time. Just like any other form of depression, we may find that the symptoms of SAD begin to interfere with our relationships, school or work and may even contribute to substance abuse. Check out the information listed below for some contact points for more support around SAD.

Links

https://www.aware.ie/

www.samaritans.org
Tel: 116 123

Written by Shane MacSweeney


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