For about the last month I’ve felt really lost with pretty much everything in my life.
I’ve not been training, eating particularly well, journaling or just being generally creative. Pretty much all of the things that keep me in check, grounded and calm.
I’ve now just got to the point where I could just cry.
I feel like everything has spiralled out of control and I just miss being really happy, positive and excited about things.
I miss feeling healthy, organised, in some form of ‘in shape’ and wanting to jump out of bed every day and not wanting to just eat all the rubbish in sight and fall asleep at 8pm every night.
So why am I talking about it… because this has all happened since the clocks went back in the UK and I personally don’t feel like Seasonal Affective Disorder is acknowledged enough.
So often people overlook their mental health, their feelings to keep the peace, soldier on through because they are ‘used to it’ or don’t know who to talk to and saying to someone that you feel depressed just because it’s dark at 4pm in the evening often gets a few responses like ‘What the fuck are you on about it’s only winter’.
Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D (its very aptly spelt acronym!) affects approximately 2 million people in the UK however, this could be more if people are left undiagnosed.
Even with this number of people suffering every year S.A.D is still under debate as to what it is caused by.
Generally the themes tend to be; low levels of Vitamin D either caused by staying in or having your body covered more frequently thus missing out on natural Vitamin D from sunlight or people just producing reduced levels as a whole. Overproduction of melatonin during the winter months and altered serotonin levels as well as S.A.D sufferers' circadian rhythm being unable to synchronise with the shorter daylight hours.
Symptoms vary from person to person and include general feelings of depression, overeating and weight gain, sleep issues from insomnia to hypersomnia, lethargy, difficulty concentrating, lack of motivation even with activities that were previously enjoyed as well as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness and anxiety… it’s quite the cocktail of joy if you are affected even just slightly.
From my personal experience I’ve found that it’s knowing that you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of no motivation, wanting to change things, hyping yourself up for change then coming to it and just falling flat on your face because all you want to do is everything but the thing you set out to do… namely the gym for me at the moment. I’ve only managed to do 2 spinning classes and 1 training session this whole month. It can be really soul sucking when all you want to do is ‘be better’.
However, I have noticed that I've reached this point which, in itself, is good enough right now because I know what to do moving forward.
So what do I do to tackle my S.A.D symptoms?
Firstly, my light therapy lamp. This thing is a god send, I have one from Beurer that I personally think is amazing. There are plenty available online though! Just make sure you look for one that has 10,000 LUX+, this is the standard range for effectiveness.
Secondly, my Lumie alarm clock. It gradually gets lighter the closer you get to the time your alarm goes off. I actually won mine on an Instagram competition?! But, had been looking to buy one so winning… literally! These work but simulating both sunrise or sunset so the gradual change in light really helps to wake you up naturally or helps you to wind down as you would when there is actual fucking daylight (oh how I miss you sunset after 4:30pm)
Thirdly, exercise. This is a tough nut to crack especially when you just want to sleep all the time, don’t feel like doing anything or even actually moving however, it is key. I’m just in the process of making myself get back to the gym again and yes it’s fucking hard but… it will be worth it. The endorphins you produce during exercise are vital for the ‘feel good factor’ which you can’t get from the sun right now plus, find a work out buddy if you can. Having someone else on hand to motivate you to actually go and train helps massively and you get the added bonus of some socialising whilst you’re at it!
I find that breaking up my time at work with a walk on my lunch break really helps me, not only do I have a bit of time to myself during the day, getting out in the fresh air away from my computer also really helps. Extra feel good points for stopping at a bench and soaking up the autumn sun for 5/10 mins when its out too!
All the extras:
Sunbeds - I find these are like going on a mini holiday once/ twice a week. Use them carefully and they will be saviour. Your local tanning shop will be able to give you advice on how long to go on a bed each time. This is a great way to boost your Vitamin D naturally.
A diverse range of healthier foods - Yes, I know all you want to do is eat chocolate and crisps but, the phytonutrients in colourful food and the fibre in fruit and veg gives your gut bacteria a real boost and with countless studies linking gut health to anxiety and depression there’s never been a better reason to load up on the good stuff!
Routine - Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day sets your body clock which in turn helps maintain your sleep pattern and can also help to maintain balance in your circadian rhythm where it can. Sleep hygiene also comes under this banner, avoiding having electronics and screens in your bedroom and ensuring that you have wind down time before sleep every night… this stuff is a given even when I’m not suffering with my S.A.D, ditch the phone/tv in your bedroom and watch your sleep transform!
As much natural light as possible - I mentioned getting out and walking on my lunch break but, on weekends where I can I always try and get outside for as much time as possible.
Socialising - Chatting to loved ones and friends (in person where possible) can be a real mood booster team that up with exercise as I mentioned before and you’re onto a sure fire happiness boost.
Self Care - When you're feeling down there's nothing better than looking after yourself! Calming baths, detoxing clay face masks, painting your nails, whatever makes you feel good!
Buying plants and opening the window - Just Google nature therapy, combine getting outside with bringing the outside in!
Meditation, Mindfulness, Gratitude and Journalling - Writing down and acknowledging how you feel, putting words down for the feelings or just leaning into gently releasing them all work wonders too. Gratitude for what you have around you certainly makes you more aware of everything that truly matters too!
there is becoming more online presence for S.A.D awareness with the NHS having an information page of useful tips that you can use, the mind charity website as well as dedicated online spaces such as sada.org.uk who focus on S.A.D alone.
I hope this has helped in some way shape or form and if you or anyone else is suffering from S.A.D please reach out to a health professional!
Sending lots of sunny summer sunshine vibes!
Below are the links to both my light therapy lamp and alarm clock as well as Mind Charity, SADA and the NHS Website for those based in the UK.
I have not been paid for any of the products listed below these and just what I personally use!