Symptoms of SAD
- Low energy
- Reduced motivation
- Increased anxiety
- Restless sleep
- Need for sleep during the daytime
- Low mood with no known cause
- Cravings for sugary foods
Symptoms of SAD vary from person to person and can be minor or severe and even debilitating.
In winter it is common to spend as much time as possible indoors to avoid the elements. If you also work from home, it is likely that you spend even less time outdoors because you aren’t travelling to and from work. And this is part of the issue, SAD is caused by a lack of natural light. Unfortunately conventional lightbulbs and fluorescent lighting don’t combat this issue.
The effect of the winter months means that more melatonin (a neurotransmitter) is produced. Melatonin increases sleepiness. To wake up in the morning, your body needs enough serotonin (another neurotransmitter) which is also important for mood, as well as helping you stay awake and alert. When you don’t get enough daylight, not enough serotonin is made, creating an imbalance of melatonin and serotonin which, as well as making you sleepy, can have a negative impact on your mood.
Coping with SAD
So, what can you do to reduce SAD symptoms? Here are my top ten tips:
- Have a regular sleep and wake pattern
- Get plenty of daylight. Even if the sun isn’t shining, some sunlight gets through.
- Consider a lightbox to place next to you while you are working. Lightboxes have the right kind of light which stimulates serotonin.
- Take regular exercise which helps lift mood and, when done outdoors, you are getting the natural light you need too.
- Go for walks out in nature. Nature naturally lifts serotonin.
- Reduce, or better still, eliminate stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, junk food and tobacco. These give you a temporary lift in mood but it quickly drops, leaving you in a vicious circle.
- Eat healthfully – a balanced diet with protein, fruit and vegetables and wholegrains. Wholegrains contain tryptophan which is needed to boost serotonin. If you have wellbeing as your goal, your mood will improve at the same time.
- Eat foods rich in Vitamin D such as oily fish or consider taking a good quality Vitamin D supplement.
- Do things which nourish the soul and act as joy triggers. It’s the small things which can make a big difference to your mood. For me, it is playing with the dog, watching a funny film or relaxing with a good book, a lit candle and a lovely cup of my favourite herbal tea. Do what works for you.
- Take up a hobby – this keeps you focused on something you enjoy and which gives you a sense of achievement at the same time.
I do hope these strategies help you overcome SAD, so you can enjoy the cosy hibernating quality of winter in balance with self-care.
As always, if you need extra help, do get in touch or call me on 0345 130 0854 for a no obligation chat.