December is meant to be the month of joy and giving. We celebrate Christmas and whether you work, or are studying, you get holidays and the idea that a new year shall arrive soon, comes with some excitement. But, let’s not forget the cold, the shorter days and longer nights. You may wear a sweater and drink warm drinks, spend time with your family or friends but the weather is incredibly hard to ignore, isn’t it? We’re here to help you keep the dullness away and brighten up your December, with or without the Christmas lights.
During the Winter we often think about looming joint pains, the tendency to catch a cold, or fall ill. We rarely think about the effects it has on our mental health. But, Winter may have an impact on your mental health, even if you do not experience any mental health issues and have never set foot into a hospital for any reason.
SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is a common disorder that affects people mostly during the Winter and may not appear at any other time. With its specific pattern it has been classified as a DSM-5 disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. The disorder is known to affect more women than men, and those between the ages of 20 and 30.
Signs that you are experiencing SAD:
Before you get skeptical, note that you may experience any of these symptoms and they don’t necessarily indicate whether you are suffering from SAD, it could be linked to other health issues or could be completely unrelated to any of these issues. To really know if you’re experiencing SAD it’s always better to check with professionals, and seek advice. Nonetheless, here is a common list compiled, for your benefit:
- You may feel sleepy all the time, or have trouble sleeping.
- Are you constantly tired? Does the fatigue make daily tasks difficult?
- You may be craving sugar and starch outside your midnight snack routine and that extra piece of Christmas cake, or perhaps your appetite has changed visibly.
- You’re gaining weight, noticeably.
- Do you feel sad, guilty or let down easily? Even when you know there’s no reason for it?
- Are you irritable lately? Small things set you off?
- You might be trying to avoid events or socialising, or may not feel up to certain activities even when it’s with people whose company you enjoy.
- Do you feel more stressed or tensed?
- You might also be experiencing unexplained aches or pains.
- Do you find it hard to concentrate or focus?
These symptoms may also point to other ailments like, Clinical Depression. Even if most of these symptoms apply to you or someone you know, it’s always recommended to consult a specialist and let your close friends and family know.
What Makes Us Susceptible to SAD?
During the Winter, the lack of sunlight combined with the cold makes us prone to SAD. The reduced sunlight may also cause a decrease in production of Serotonin, a hormone that helps our wellbeing and feelings of happiness. The changes in the day time and night time, due to the shorter days, during Winter causes changes to our sleep-wake cycle which may disrupt our sleep routines. Moreover, if you have a family history of SAD you may also be susceptible to it.
SAD isn’t experienced by humans alone, other creatures exhibit differences in behaviour due to the Winter as well. But, SAD doesn’t always have to apply to the Winter, although less common, Summer SAD may also be experienced by some who experience changes in their sleep cycle due to longer days, and the humidity affects their wellbeing. This speaks to the fact that SAD presents itself in different ways at different times in the year, however, the ‘winter blues’ is a more common form of SAD than the other.
How Do You Prevent SAD?
There are always preventive measures that you can take, such as:
- Get more natural sunlight, basically make use of whatever little Sun you may get during the Winter.
- Exercise! While this advice may apply to numerous ailments and is not the easiest way, do not underestimate its capability. Exercises like —walking, dancing, or martial arts for 30-60 minutes a day can help generate more endorphins.
- Eat right! Since you may crave more sugar, try a diet with complex carbohydrates such as pasta and bread, as well as those rich in Omega-3 fats like fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.
- Destress through relaxing techniques and finding routines that calm you like Yoga.
- Spend time with the people close to you, since social withdrawal is a symptom of SAD, even if it is something simple. After all, it’s the month of holiday spirit!
If you do suffer from SAD, there are numerous ways that you can get help:
- Light Therapy: Often this means exposing yourself to light using a lightbox where the patients sits 30-60cm from the box with eyes open.
- Medication: Medication may include antidepressants prescribed to raise Serotonin levels particularly Bupropion.
- Psychotherapy and CBT: These may help handle stress and negative feelings of stress related to SAD.
Health whether physical or mental requires care and attention, this goes for any season we’re in. We at MBS know this, and that is why we offer you a range of services and qualified professionals to help you through the year, so that you may stay healthy in every sense of the way. Don’t be “sad” this Winter. Happy holidays!