As Autumn turns to Winter, the beautiful blanket of leaves in the parks turn into a soggy mush and we prepare ourselves in mid October for the onslaught of Xmas jingles and forced jolliness, it can understandably feel like a testing time of year for many of us; it may be a catalyst for some general grumbling and mild irritation, although, let’s face it, bemoaning the British winters is something of a national pastime.
However for about 3% of the population, there is an altogether more serious decline in their mood, which is caused by a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), thought to be caused by a change in body clock and decreased melatonin and serotonin levels.
Sufferers can experience low mood, a loss of pleasure in everyday activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness. They may feel lethargic during the day, sleep in longer than normal and experience loss of libido. Weight gain is also common due to strong cravings for carbohydrates. Others may find they have bursts of hyperactivity and feel irritable and anxious.
Symptoms tend to ease off and often disappear in the Spring and Summer months but tend to be cyclical and return in Autumn and the Winter.
So what can you do if you suffer from SAD ?
- Light therapy – exposure to sunlight is important, but certainly for most people it’s not practical or affordable to up sticks and spend the winters in sunnier climes. Light therapy involves using light boxes between 1 to 2 hours a day and according to the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association this form of treatment is effective for 85% of cases and can reduce symptoms in as little time as a fortnight.
- Counselling and psychotherapy – Cognitive behavioural therapy has proved to be a very effective way of treating SAD, as it helps to connect your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and cultivate practical skills to manage them. Counselling offers a safe space to openly explore any worries and difficult feelings.
- Medication – Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), which are a type of antidepressant, can be effective as they increase serotonin levels, helping to regulate mood. However they are only recommended for severe SAD and not for mild or moderate symptoms.
- Exercise – some regular gentle exercise such as walking can be beneficial. Why not sign up to www.borrowmydoggy.com and take a dog out for a walk? Dogs have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety and are a great source of companionship.
- A healthy diet – try to eat three balanced meals with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and omega oils such as omega 3 and 6.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to book a consultation.