Are you feeling SAD? Here’s what you can do to help.

    Woman looking out window
    Published: 17 November 2021

    Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that can affect people as the seasons and weather change. It’s also sometimes called the ‘Winter Blues’ or ‘Winter Depression’, but a smaller proportion of people do experience SAD in summer months and feel better in winter months.

    As we head deeper into the winter months and the days get shorter, it’s common to experience a change in how we feel and our energy levels. But if you find that these feelings start to have a real impact on your daily life, it may be time to seek help from a professional.

    Causes of SAD

    Nobody really knows exactly what causes SAD. Possible causes could be a change in the levels of light, a disruption to our body clock and changes in the weather and temperature.

    The change in the level of sunlight we experience can have an effect on our serotonin and melatonin levels. Both of these hormones play a part in our general wellbeing. Serotonin plays a part when it comes to our mood, digestion and sleep, whereas melatonin helps to control our sleep cycle.

    Usually if you have SAD, you may experience low moods during some seasons more than others. Other symptoms can include a lack of energy and enjoyment in life, changes in appetite and problems with sleep.

    Treatments

    Experiencing SAD symptoms can be difficult, but there are a number of things out there that could help you cope. We’ve listed a handful below:

    1. Natural daylight. If it’s possible, try to get as much natural sunlight as possible. You could set a reminder to go outside for 10 minutes during daylight hours every couple of hours.
    2. Light Therapy. Some people with SAD find that light therapy can help improve their symptoms. It involves sitting with a special light box or lamp for around 30 – 60 minutes a day. The lamp emits artificial light which simulates the sunlight missing in darker months.
    3. Exercising and eating well. Our physical and mental health are closely linked, and so one can affect the other. Some people have found taking vitamin supplements such as vitamin D helps with their energy levels and to combat tiredness.
    4. Relaxation techniques. Managing stress levels can help to build up mental-resilience. Trying relaxation techniques such as mindfulness can help you feel calmer, less anxious and more able to cope with difficult thoughts.
    5. Talking therapies. Counselling can offer a safe space to open up and talk about what’s going on for you. It can also help you learn healthy ways to cope with the symptoms of SAD.
    6. Some people find antidepressants can be helpful, either on their own or in combination with a talking therapy.
    7. Remember the seasons and weather will change.

    If you’re struggling to cope with your symptoms, or they’re affecting your day-to-day life, speak to your GP or medical professional.

    Vitality offers mental health support with private health insurance. If you’re a Vitality health insurance member, log into Member Zone to access the mental health hub.