It’s been just a few days since the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, so with little daylight being part of our lives at the moment now is exactly the time to focus on Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D). This is a type of depression that occurs in a seasonal pattern, with symptoms becoming worse in our current winter months and usually easing off as spring and summer returns.
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So what are the symptoms of S.A.D. I hear you ask?
Check out these 5 common symptoms:
1. Feelings of Depression – here I mean extended periods of low mood, low energy levels, guilt, low self-esteem and negative feelings. Experiencing these feelings as the seasons change from summer to winter is the most noticeable sign you may be suffering from S.A.D.
2. Increased Anxiety – feeling restless, worrying and experiencing difficult relaxing or concentrating during autumn and winter are all signs you’re experiencing S.A.D. related anxiety.
3. Loss of Libido – yep, I’ve put it out there … wanting sex less during the winter months, as well as reduced interest in physical contact, is a common S.A.D. symptom.
4. Weight Gain – having an increased desire to eat more carbohydrates and sugars to lift your mood during these winter months to mitigate these feelings, alongside a decreased desire to go outside or exercise during winter, makes putting on weight another common symptom.
5. Sleeping Issues – it’s common to find your usual sleeping pattern interrupted – often more sleep seems to be required and you may notice a difficulty staying awake in the day. On the flip side of the coin, you may find yourself beginning to experience insomnia.
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What causes S.A.D.?
I confess, there’s no simple answer to this.
According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence “The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it is thought to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year.”
Exposure to sunlight is one of the ways we top up on serotonin – that wonderful hormone that is our natural coping mechanism for life which helps us feel happy and positive. So, on the days that we have less sunlight we can find ourselves depleted.
We can naturally get serotonin boosts in other ways – exercise, doing things you enjoy, socialising and helping others; you shouldn’t under estimate the benefits of positive interaction, activity and thought on your well being.
But, ironically for S.A.D. sufferers, this is the very time of the year when they would much rather be curled up under a duvet on the sofa with a bar of chocolate and Netflix box set thinking won’t everyone please just “bugger orf…”? Sadly, not all that great for serotonin flow.
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I think I may have S.A.D. but how can I be sure?
Does this strike a chord with you? Are you feeling a sense of relief that there’s a reason you don’t feel thrilled about being in the midst of winter? But how can you be sure S.A.D. is what’s affecting you?
Here’s an easy quiz as a starter for 10 – think about how you are in the colder, darker, winter months as compared to the summer months:
🤔 Do you get grumpy if you have no sunshine at all in a week?
🤔 Would you consider April to September your preferred half of the year?
🤔 Do you have trouble getting up in the dark?
🤔 Do you feel like hibernating (not going out or seeing people as much when the nights and mornings are dark)?
🤔 Do you eat more heavy/starchy/sweet foods during the winter months – so much so that you regularly have to do a spring weight-loss program?
🤔 Do you pick up bugs or colds or succumb to injury more easily in the winter?
🤔 Do you feel more negative, short tempered, more shy, less confident in the winter?
🤔 Do you feel more stressed in the darker half of the year?
🤔 Do you need to sleep more or have disturbed nights in the colder months?
🤔 Do you feel less attractive and less interested in intimacy and sex in the winter?
🤔 Do you feel more unable to cope during the winter months?
🤔 Do you suddenly feel more positive, for no apparent reason, when the days begin to get sunnier?
If you’ve answered yes to the majority of these questions then you are likely to be struggling with symptoms of S.A.D. Just consider it’s more than feeling a bit fed up with the cold nights and grey days, it’s a more extreme set of symptoms that often includes:
🌳 Sudden weight changes
🌳 Low mood
🌳 Loss of interest
🌳 Comfort food craving
🌳 A generally negative outlook
🌳 Aches and pains
🌳 Disturbed sleep
🌳 Prolonged feelings of tiredness
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How can you get rid of these S.A.D. feelings?
Are you thinking “Oh…crap, Lauren’s talking about me, now what do I do?”
The great news is that there’s help and lots of research into the treatment of S.A.D. including support groups, light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy and medications.
I’m also thrilled to share with you that Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help and has been documented as benefitting S.A.D. sufferers. I encourage clients to produce more serotonin by creating a more positive outlook and changing behaviour patterns. By working with their subconscious to boost serotonin, reduce long held negative beliefs and regain confidence it gives them the opportunity to feel more like your summer self for the whole year through.
Please don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the ‘winter blues’ or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own or think that nothing can help. You can take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year – you 100% deserve it.
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Would trying hypnotherapy to help alleviate the symptoms of S.A.D be of interest to you? Simply get in touch by emailing [email protected] and I’d be delighted to help you achieve that positive change.