Mental Wellbeing, Sleep, Uncategorized

Why so SAD?

Following on from last weeks’ post, I thought I’d talk a little more about Wintumn. Hopefully y’all are buoyed up by all the lovely things I like at this time of year! There were some great additions from all of you, including posting autumn colours on Instagram and sitting by an open fire. I feel cosy already.

It’s time to look at the flip-side. As I mentioned last post, Scottish people seem to have a natural defense mechanism when the clocks change, a sort-of hibernation mode. I’d be interested to find out if some of our same-latitude buddies in other countries have a similar instinct. We seem to be good at protecting ourselves and hopefully for most this means taking better care of our overall health in the colder months.

We’ve all experienced the winter blues at some point. Getting out of bed seems a mammoth task, especially when you are nice and toasty, and the thought of trudging to work is less than appealing. (Hey, some folks feel like that every day. That’s another post for another time.) Relentless grey skies,  sniffles and short days can leave us less motivated and feeling sluggish, or even a little depressed. Don’t panic, it’s normal. Usually we can shake it off after a week or two and the balance seems to redress itself.

It’s important that we keep up the good habits and lifestyles that we’ve embraced so much in the warmer months to help combat a stodgy winter. Fresh air, exercise, time to relax in peace and good food are still important in the dark as well as taking appropriate steps to keep ourselves well over winter.

But what if that balance doesn’t return to normal? Most people have heard of SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In the UK, nearly one in ten people suffer from the disorder and yet it can be difficult to pinpoint. Is it really just the winter blues?  I deal with many of the symptoms associated with SAD, but mine are episodic and can occur at any time of the year – this is a classic example of why it can be difficult to determine, particularly for those who already cope with chronic mental illness. I do not suffer from SAD.

SAD sufferers tend to feel an onset of symptoms in autumn and this can last right through until spring. These symptoms are caused by a lack of sunlight.  Insomnia or disturbed sleep, changes in appetite and moderate to severe depression and anxiety are all indicators of SAD, along with many others. It’s not a straightforward condition. It can leave people socially, mentally and emotionally crippled, making it very difficult to function on a day-to-day basis.

The good news is it can be treated with light therapy, and some doctors may prescribe anti-depressants where required along with complimentary therapies such as counselling. Even if it’s the winter blues that get you down a lot of the same suggestions for SAD patients work – Getting as much natural light as possible, and using mood-boosting activities can help battle that feeling of drudgery.

It’s not always obvious to others that someone is having a hard time. Like other mental illnesses, it is an invisible illness and many will not be understanding or sympathetic. It can make life very difficult. If you think you or someone you know may be affected,  more information can be found from the lovely people at the SADA website, the UK’s only not-for-profit SAD organization.



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