Seasonal Affective Disorder

22 November, 2017

Autumn and winter bring us lots of fun in terms of Halloween, fireworks and of course Christmas.  The other side of the coin is conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This condition is a slippery character. It creeps up on you and may vary from year to year. Initially, it has a good chance of being labelled as depression. The main distinction between SAD and depression is that come spring your symptoms will go away.

I became aware of SAD symptoms a number of years ago. I was working in a shop and it was a dull grey day. A regular customer came in and mentioned the weather. I heard my response which was dull, flat and monotone. I was in complete agreement with how awful the weather was. Does this seem familiar to you? What did you do?

Luckily, I had knowledge to help myself so I started taking vitamin D3. A week later the same customer came in and repeated the same comments. My response was totally different I just said “oh well, that’s autumn for you but aren’t the colours of the leaves beautiful” Hearing my response confirmed to me that the vitamin D3 had helped me.

How does Vitamin D3 help?

Vitamin D3 has long been described as the sunshine vitamin. This is because it encourages the production of serotonin our happy hormone. Serotonin is a hormone that is created in the gut from the amino acid tryptophan.

How can I produce more serotonin and vitamin D3?

  • Take Vitamin D3 as a supplement
  • Eat meat and poultry as they contain tryptophan
  • Eat oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocado plus brightly coloured vegetables to give you extra antioxidants
  • During the summer ensure you get your sunshine fix. Vitamin D3 is fat soluble so it stores in the body
  • Even in the winter we have bright days so get out and enjoy them

The symptoms of SAD

  • You lose your joie de vivre. Life becomes an effort
  • Hibernation becomes very attractive. The desire to avoid people and connection is quite to very strong
  • Mood changes occur
  • Getting out of bed takes a real effort. It is much nicer to stay in bed. You feel so tired why would you get up?
  • As I have said my voice went flat and monotone and that matched my low mood and lack of motivation
  • You have no energy but you have to get on and go to work / look after the family / walk the dog. This makes you reach for carbs and high sugar foods to get a boost. That creates a vicious cycle of highs and lows which is even more exhausting
  • Concentration is a real challenge
  • Anxiety and even panic attacks can become part of your life

The seasonality of this condition makes it hard to diagnose. A pattern has to be established and take will take a minimum of two seasons. Research is ongoing and there are various theories relating to causes.

What we do know is that light is very important and integral to a number of body functions including

  • Sleep
  • Libido
  • Mood
  • Temperature
  • Appetite


How to help yourself with SAD

There are common themes for anyone wanting to lead a healthy life

  1. Eat well. Our bodies respond to the fuel we use. The old saying of “junk in, junk out” is very true.
  2. Exercise – raises the feel good factor through endorphins and serotonin
  3. Use uplifting oils in oil burners or diffusers. My personal favourite is grapefruit oil which gives me a lift. What is your favourite?
  4. Meditate – by meditating you can raise your serotonin levels
  5. Get outside as much as you can especially if its sunny
  6. Observe yourself. How do you react when you open the curtains to a grey day? If it makes you feel down take action to help yourself.
  7. We all need to avoid stress but if we experience SAD symptoms it is even more important to reduce the stress we have in our lives. Come and talk to us if you need help. Check out our blogs on stress (April, May, August)
  8. Plan fun things to do. Autumn and winter have many delights to offer
    1. Go to the local woods and enjoy the autumn colours.
    2. Plant some bulbs for a beautiful spring display
    3. Have a treasure hunt
    4. Try a new recipe – check out our recipes
    5. Set up bird feeders and water supplies. I leave a big plant saucer in the garden filled with water. I get a regular treat each day as the birds come for their daily bath. It always makes me smile.
  9. Find a new hobby. Can you get creative and use the pine cones and autumn leaves to make a Christmas decoration?
  10. If all else fails book a winter sun holiday!

As always being the individuals we are different things will work for different people. The range and severity of symptoms will vary from person to person too. What solutions do you use? We would love to hear from you!




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