Four Tips To Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

by Catherine Nicholls

Oh, the joys of winter. While some revel in the day drawing in and the constant chill in the air, many despise it. For those with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of seasonal depression, the thought of grey skies in the day and night skies in the afternoon is hellish. And it makes sense.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is thought to be triggered by the reduced amount of sunlight people get in the winter months. A lack of sunlight prevents an important part of the brain, the hypothalamus, from working properly. The hypothalamus is responsible for serotonin production, which affects mood, appetite and sleep. Additionally, melatonin production in the hypothalamus is higher when there is less sun. This makes people more sleepy and lethargic, as well as giving them a persistently low mood and a lack of interest in the world around them.

The disorder is a form of depression, so it’s important that it’s taken seriously. While some with Seasonal Affective Disorder are able to function to a high extent, others are severely affected by the disorder. It’s vital that the disorder is not dismissed or invalidated; people should attempt to understand it in order to try and combat or minimise its impact.

Here are some tips and tricks for those with Seasonal Affective Disorder to try and make the season a little less torturous. Taylor Magazine are not medical professionals – always seek your GP’s advice if you are struggling.

Tip One – Cut Yourself Some Slack

Given that Seasonal Affective Disorder only rears its head at a certain point of the year, it’s easy to compare yourself during winter to that of the rest of the year. It can be frustrating to not be able to do things you were able to do with ease only a few months ago, or be feeling a certain way that you’re not used to feeling. You need to know that this isn’t on you.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real illness. It occurs because of environmental change, which in turn creates a hormonal change within you. This is medical, and needs to be taken seriously. Don’t be frustrated at yourself for something that is beyond your control. Instead, work on ways to manage the disorder. Find ways to minimise its effect on your life. It’s not you, my friend – it’s your brain fighting against you.

Tip Two – Find Ways Around Things

Sometimes, people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. If you find that this is happening to you, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, find a way to compromise with yourself.

If you need to be up at a certain time, set your alarm a few hours earlier than it needs to be. Go about your routine in the usual way – turn the lights on when your alarm goes off, but allow yourself to stay in bed until you feel like you can get up. Alternatively, maybe see if incentivising yourself works. Buy your favourite type of cereal or allow yourself to read a chapter of your favourite book in the kitchen. Give yourself time, and don’t punish yourself. You’re working your way through this, and every attempt to go against the disorder is a step in the right direction.

Tip Three – Lighten Things Up

Now, I promise this isn’t one of those condescending posts telling you that if you drink a bunch of water and listen to birds sing, you’ll magically be cured. There isn’t an insta-fix to a medical issue. There are, however, little things you can do to limit the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

The disorder is brought on by a lack of sunlight, so trying to maximise your exposure to it could, medically, reverse its affect. If you feel up to it, drag yourself out of the house for a stroll. Even if it’s just to a café or nearby grocery store, you’re soaking up a little bit of natural light. This could improve your mood at the time, as well as long term.

Try to make your home as light and airy as possible, too. If you don’t get a lot of natural light, kit it out with lamps and fairy lights. Mirrors also help to maximise a feeling of space and light. Spend time near your windows, too, if you can.

Tip Four – Talk To A Professional

Light therapy is a form of treatment that uses bright light to encourage the hypothalamus to produce the correct amounts of serotonin and melatonin. An extension of the previous tip, light therapy is more of a short-term treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Other forms of treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder include psychosocial treatments, such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy, or medication, such as anti-depressants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Talking to a medical professional will ensure that you get the help you need in dealing with this. Please remember that what you’re feeling is totally valid and important, and that you aren’t what this disorder makes you. You’ll get there!

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