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Health and Wellbeing

11 Apr 2018

Don’t be SAD this autumn and winter

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the autumn and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own. Take steps to keep your mood and motivation steady throughout the year!

SAD symptoms

  • Symptoms specific to autumn and winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:
  • Irritability;
  • Tiredness or low energy;
  • Problems getting along with other people;
  • Hypersensitivity to rejection;
  • Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs;
  • Oversleeping;
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates; and
  • Weight gain.

What are the causes of SAD?

The specific cause of seasonal affective disorder remains unknown. Some factors that may come into play include:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in autumn and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression;
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression; and
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

What you can do RIGHT NOW to manage some of these symptoms:

Get moving! Exercise can help alleviate SAD symptoms by increasing the happy hormones (endorphins) in yours system and reduce stress, which often exacerbates feelings of depression brought on by the winter blues. Outdoor exercise would be most helpful (a walk/run in the botanical gardens perhaps?), but if you can’t exercise outside because it’s cold or rainy, choose a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical machine close to a window at the gym. If you don’t have access to a gym, training indoors such as a high intensity interval training session, yoga or Pilates (that can be accessed on youtube.com) will do the trick!

Light therapy (phototherapy). Speak to someone who is a sleep professional to recommend the best light therapy product for you. Places like: sleephub.com.au and mcsaustralia.com.au can help you with this;

Psychotherapy/counselling. Find a psychologist in the Southbank area that can support you with your SAD symptoms; and

Self care. Spending time doing things that you enjoy such as reading, listening to music, lighting a candle, having a bath and spending time with loved ones;

Medication. Speak to your doctor about medication that might be appropriate for you and the symptoms that you are having.

Rajna Bogdanovic - Clinical Psychologist

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