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SAD and how we can prevent it

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, hitting hardest in the winter.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a kind of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, hitting hardest in the winter. [ref] It shows up as some or all of the following:

  • low mood
  • irritability
  • reduced sex drive
  • feeling less sociable
  • feeling less active
  • low energy and sleepiness during the day
  • sleeping for longer, hard to get up in the morning
  • difficulty concentrating
  • increased appetite (typically for carbohydrates)

SAD is thought to be caused by reduced exposure to sunlight during the short winter days, stopping the hypothalamus from working optimally. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain which regulates several hormones such as melatonin (which makes you feel sleepy), and serotonin (which affects mood, appetite and sleep). The hypothalamus also regulates the body’s circadian rhythm, determining when we feel ready to wake up and go to sleep. When all of this is out of whack, it’s no wonder our mood can be affected and we feel sleepy and have difficulty concentrating.

Most of us feel these effects in the winter to some extent, but SAD will only be diagnosed if the symptoms are severe enough to cause serious problems in your life. People with other kinds of depression are more prone to full-blown SAD than other people.

What can we do about it?

1. Get as much natural sunlight (or even just daylight) as possible. This includes your indoor environment – sit near windows whenever you can, throw the curtains wide open, and so on.

2. Exercise regularly – even better if this is outdoors. Exercise lifts your mood and increases levels of all the “happy hormones” in your body, as well as reducing stress.

3. Eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated. Avoid overloading on sugary foods and refined carbohydrates by filling yourself up with hearty soups and stews, plenty of fibre (vegetables, pulses) and seasonal whole fruits like apples, pears and citrus fruits.

4. Increase Vitamin D intake. Many people with SAD have a deficiency of this vitamin. Vitamin D helps to promote healthy levels of serotonin, and levels can drop over the winter with the lack of sunlight. Vitamin D is made by the body in reaction to sunlight, and also can be absorbed from food (oily fish, egg yolks, red meat) or supplements.

5. Manage stress levels. EFT tapping is one of the best tools to help you manage your stress levels. It can also be used for physical issues (always consult a medical doctor and/or psychiatrist before using EFT for physical issues or serious psychological problems.) For problems which clearly lie in the crossover between the physical and mental, such as appetite, sex drive and sleepiness, EFT can be particularly effective.

6. Light therapy. A special lamp called a light box is used to simulate natural sunlight. You sit by the lamp for 30 minutes to 1 hour each day. As the light box generates a very bright light, check with your doctor before using one.

7. Talk therapy (CBT / counselling) has been shown to be quite successful in helping people manage SAD. EFT also combines elements of talk therapy and has the added benefit of stimulating acupressure points at the same time, which helps to optimize physical health as well.

8. Antidepressant medication is sometimes prescribed for SAD symptoms.

9. Plan ahead. Get plenty of sunlight and outdoor activity during the summer. This will help you to store up Vitamin D to last you through the beginning of autumn and winter.

10. Be gentle with yourself and go with the flow. The winter is a natural time to rest more, sleep a little more, nurture ourselves with warm soups and cosy firesides, and spend time in the home with a small group of family and loved ones. It is absolutely OK to be less active and less engaged in the social whirl at this time, filling your energy reserves ready for the spring and summer’s activities. By spending time looking after your own needs and going within, perhaps doing some journaling or meditation, you will be aligning with the season in a healthy way.

If you’d like to explore how EFT can help us deal with life’s challenges contact me to set up a free 20 minute chat to see how I could help you!

Do join my free Facebook group where I regularly offer free group tapping sessions.

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