What is Seasonal Affective Disorder? (& 5 Ways to Deal With it)
The days start getting shorter, the weather’s getting colder, and you feel worse at this time of the year than any other.
From difficulty sleeping to a lack of motivation to do almost anything, it can feel hard to get out of bed in the morning.
Here at KMA Therapy, we know you want to know why you’re not feeling your best, and want to understand how you can start feeling better. For over 14 years, we’ve helped our clients learn the tools they need to make the best of the situations they’re facing.
After reading this article, you’ll understand what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, its risk factors and symptoms, and five ways to deal with it – and start feeling better today.
What Causes Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is thought to be caused by the shortened days and lack of sunlight that happen during the winter months.
Although the exact cause is still unknown, the lack of light can likely cause a drop in your serotonin levels, which can trigger depression.
What are the Risk Factors for Seasonal Affective Disorder?
SAD can affect people of any age and any gender, but it’s most common in women and occurs more frequently in young adults.
Other risk factors for SAD include:
- A family history of SAD
- Low levels of Vitamin D
- Living far away from the equator
- Diagnosis of depression or bipolar disorder
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Seasonal Affective Disorder is distinct in the way its symptoms come around at the same time every year.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Sadness and social withdrawal
- Increased feelings of tiredness
- Feelings of anxiety and irritation
- Decreased focus and concentration
- Experiencing guilt and hopelessness
5 Ways to Deal with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Only a mental health professional can provide you with a diagnosis of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Regardless of whether you have an official diagnosis, following these tips can help you ease the winter blues.
1. Spend More Time Outside
This one can seem obvious, but it can also feel really hard to do.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, the last thing you want to do is put on a coat and bundle up to face the cold.
But even getting ten minutes of sunshine can help boost your mood.
If you’re having trouble finding the motivation to head outside, try playing a podcast about your favourite tv show or putting on a pump-up playlist to help you get moving.
2. Make Time for Social Activities
The winter months can make it feel easier than ever to curl up in the warmth of your house, and not show your face outside again until spring.
But making plans with the people you love can be a great way to help you feel better.
If you want to stay cozy, having a movie marathon with your friends can help you connect with others while staying comfortable.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, trying something new like a pottery class or paint night can be a great way to break up the monotony of the winter days.
3. Create a Morning Routine
People experiencing SAD often have a hard time falling asleep at night.
You may fall into the pattern of staying up super late just to find a moment of free time to yourself – a cycle known as Revenge Bedtime Procrastination.
Creating an engaging morning routine for yourself can help make waking up in the morning feel easier, and gradually making your wake-up time earlier can help you feel more tired when your head hits the pillow at night.
4. Try Different Forms of Exercise
One of the most annoying (and effective) mental health tips is to get more exercise – it helps your physical health, too.
If you’re not in the mood to even step outside, there are plenty of workouts to try from home.
Youtube is full of fun dance workouts to your favourite musicians and easy mat Pilates workouts you can do while lying on the floor.
The trick is to find something you don’t mind doing – bonus points if you find a workout video that’s easy enough to follow while you binge-watch your new favourite Netflix show.
5. Speak to Your Doctor or a Therapist
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be impacted by your physical health as much as your mental health, so seeing a doctor is always a good idea.
If you need more support in finding new coping strategies or just need someone to listen to you, speaking to a therapist is also a great way to find support.
They’ll be able to learn more about your situation and make recommendations that work for you and your lifestyle.
Next Steps for Easing Seasonal Affective Disorder
After reading this article, you know what causes Seasonal Affective Disorder, its symptoms, and five ways to manage it.
Here at KMA Therapy, we know you sometimes need some support to get you through the toughest months of the year. For over 14 years, our team of therapists has helped our clients weather the winter and make the most of our chilliest months.
Book an appointment today or connect with our caring team to learn more.
If you’re not yet ready to book an appointment, check out these resources to learn more:
- If you’re experiencing sadness that lasts throughout the year, read: What’s the Difference Between Sadness and Depression?
- To learn more ways to boost your mental health, read: What is Mindfulness – And Can it Improve Your Wellbeing?
- To explore whether therapy could be the right choice for you, read: Will Psychotherapy Help Me?