Do you get a feeling of dread when the Summer shifts to Autumn, the clocks go back and those lovely long, light evenings disappear in favour of extra hours of darkness? If you do, you may be one of the 10% of the population who suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder.
In the Spring and Summer we tend to produce more serotonin, a brain chemical produced on waking, to keep us alert and focused and our mood elevated. The more daylight exposure we get, the better we are likely to feel as there is thought to be a correlation between daylight and serotonin synthesis.
In Autumn and Winter, as the light fades, our serotonin levels decrease and our melatonin (a brain chemical involved in regulating sleep patterns) levels increase with the onset of extra darkness, leaving us inclined to want more sleep.
Extra symptoms of S.A.D
If you are a S.A.D. sufferer you may also notice further symptoms which leave you less than willing to get out of bed!
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Difficulty maintaining daily routines.
- Disturbed sleep patterns leaving you lethargic during the day
- Anxiety, depression and feeling unable to cope.
- A sense of isolation and wanting to disengage from social activity
- Increased appetite for carbohydrates and foods containing sugar
- Weight gain
- Increased susceptibility to illness and infection
If you recognise these symptoms as all too familiar you may find the following tips helpful...
Eat a balanced diet
Cut down or cut out any white, processed foods, caffeinated stimulants, alcohol and foods high in sugar. These cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate dramatically and negatively impact mood and energy levels. For a more balanced mood, focus instead on whole grains, legumes and good quality protein ideally with a regular intake of oily fish.
Exercise and get outdoors
Exercise naturally increases endorphins (feel good chemicals) and is vital to a sense of well-being. Try small changes initially, such as a 20 minute walk a few times a week. Ideally, exercise outdoors at the start of the day and you will release serotonin through exposure to natural light whilst getting fit and increasing endorphins at the same time.
Set yourself goals and a daily structure
It can be hard to self motivate when mood and self esteem are running low. However, daily goals and a structure can help gently lift spirits by creating a sense of achievement. All the better if those goals include something gentle, creative or inspirational that you would normally enjoy doing.
Stay connected to other people
Isolating may come easily and yet over time may exacerbate feelings of loneliness and depression. Stay connected to friends, family or even a support group who understand and are happy to listen.
Explore options available e.g. Vitamin D supplementation ( if deficient when exposure to daylight is reduced), light therapy (to mimic summer daylight) or A.Vogel’s Hyperiforce, a licensed traditional herbal remedy made from freshly harvested St John’s Wort, used to treat mild anxiety, low mood and other similar symptoms.
If you cannot take St John’s Wort you could also try Jan de Vries’s Mood Essence, a combination of flower essences for feeling generally unhappy, negative, despondent and sad. Taken regularly it aims to uplift and bring back an optimistic and enthusiastic outlook.
For further information please see the following link, a voluntary organisation for supporting people suffering with S.A.D.
If symptoms persist please consult your GP or healthcare provider.