Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): how to loosen its grip – Tara Rawson

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When I was a little girl, winter was my favourite time of year. Sure, summer was great for water fights and bike rides but as far as I was concerned, winter had it all: Christmas, Halloween, Bonfire Night…. all of the sparkly, quirky, over the top fun!

But after my grandparents died and my parents divorced, towards the end of the summer, I would feel this huge sense of dread washing over me, knowing that the sadness was coming and there would be nothing I could do to stop it. I had always assumed it was the familial loss at Christmas that hurt me and bled into the change of the seasons, but I realised later on, it was much more than that.

SAD is a depressive illness, causing a wide range of unfortunate symptoms including lethargy and sadness, caused by the lack of daylight as a result of the shortened days. Whilst reading up on the subject, I had a flashback of going to work one evening at 6pm, the sky pitch black, and feeling a terrible moment of panic and claustrophobia. The more I read, the more vindicated I felt. I wasn’t a scrooge! My brain wanted the sunshine!

These days I know that it’s coming, I know how to handle it and I actually look forward to all the cosiness and fun that the winter months can bring.

There are some habits I’ve picked up over the years to make winter more bearable.

Get outside

When the winter starts to creep in, we all have a tendency to hibernate. After all, who really wants to go traipsing out and about in the cold and wet.  When winter gets into full flow, it’s likely you’ll be waking up in the dark and coming home in the dark – so use your breaks wisely.

Pack some lunch, wrap up and get out of your workplace over lunch…even if it’s raining! A brisk walk blows the cobwebs out anyway. For those less able bodied, find somewhere outdoors where you can sit and watch the world go by.

And see your friends! Nothing will make you feel better than a natter with your besties. Force yourself to leave the house.

  

Exercise

I’m not suggesting running marathons (unless that’s your bag in which case I salute you) just something to keep you active, as strenuous or as relaxed as you like, or, as much as you are physically able.

It’s true that the real endorphins kick in after a really good work out but I always feel fabulous after a pilates session or a relaxed swim. Plus, it’ll get you out of the house and give you something else to focus on.

 

Roll with it

Looking over the precipice of winter and trying to figure out how many days you have left to go before the days get longer can be incredibly daunting. As hard as it is, try and look only at short segments at a time.

My favourite thing to do after Christmas is to start timing the darkness creeping in. This might sound terrifying but you’ll soon notice each day it arrives a little later. We’ve already got past the shortest day – so the only way is up!

 

Buy a UV lamp

I work in a recording studio with no windows and they give us a UV bulb to simulate natural daylight. It’s made a huge amount of difference to me and I really recommend getting one for your home or desk. Some of the appliances are a little pricey but definitely worth it.

 

Get support

Don’t try and get through this on your own. Speak to friends, family and your GP if you think you need medical help with it. There are lots of online support groups as well so don’t suffer in silence.

Check out SADA as a starting point. They are a charity who deal specifically with SAD and have plenty of information on their website. If you think you might be suffering with SAD, why not take a look at http://www.sada.org.uk/index_2.php

Stay smart and stay happy, fierce Femmes and ally gems!

 

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