What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)?

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As the nights draw in – Dr Sally Norton talks about (S.A.D) Seasonal Affective Disorder and how to combat it.

(S.A.D) is a type of depression related to changes in seasons, and usually begins and ends around the same times every year. It’s not that uncommon – we all tend to feel a bit fed-up as the nights draw in. The usual time to start feeling the symptoms of S.A.D is in the autumn, and the effects can last through to the end of winter.

In the UK in particular, we tend to be more susceptible to S.A.D, due to the extreme differences in light from summer to winter. These changes in seasonal light, combined with our hectic lifestyles and long periods of dark, gloomy days can have dramatic effects on our mental wellbeing, and as a result, many of us can end up suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.

S.A.D. can leave you feeling stripped of energy, withdrawn, moody, and can even affect sleeping patterns. The good news is that there are treatments available to help you deal with your symptoms. Light therapy, psychotherapy and anti-depressants have all been known to help those with severe cases of S.A.D. If you’re struggling to deal with your S.A.D, then please speak to your GP about options available to help.

If you want to try your hand at combating S.A.D yourself, then there are steps you can take that could help to limit the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder:

  • Try to get out in natural sunlight as often as possible – even if it is just for a 30 minute walk in your lunch-break. Our bodies’ natural responses to light can affect our appetite, energy levels, and mood, so boosting how much light you are exposing yourself to could help to improve your S.A.D. symptoms. What’s more, exposure to even 20 minutes of natural sunlight, particularly in the morning, has been shown to help keep the weight off.
  • The boost of endorphins you get when exercising could help you feel better by flooding your body with those feel-good chemicals. What better reason to keep active this winter (preferably outdoors in natural light rather than the gym)?!
  • We know how the foods we eat can affect our weight, but did you know they can affect your mood too? Make sure you are providing your body with a healthy, balanced diet, and both your weight and your mood could see the positive effects.
  • High stress levels will only heighten any depressive feelings you’re having. Where possible, try to avoid stressful situations and take steps to manage the stress levels.
  • Talk to your family and friends. Speaking openly about S.A.D and how it affects you can help them to understand it, and in turn will enable them to support you.

Whilst the above tips may help, don’t wish the winter away but instead try to enjoy all of the pleasures it can bring – crisp, frosty mornings, sitting by a roaring fire in the local pub and delicious, home-cooked warming soups and stews!

Dr Sally Norton is a UK Leading Health Management Expert and founder of www.vavista.com & www.vavista-awards.com .   

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