Northampton therapist's five top tips to eliminate the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Liz Ritchie, integrative psychotherapist at Northampton's St Andrew's Hospital, writes a monthly column for Chronicle & Echo. Below is her offering for October
In the coming weeks before the clocks go back in the early hours of Sunday, October 31, the days will get shorter, meaning the amount of daylight most of us see will be very limited.
For many, this can mark the start of ‘winter depression’, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a condition that is impacted by the time of year.
It is estimated that between one and two percent of the population could suffer from SAD, with one in four people being young or female.
Although no one knows with any certainty why some people are affected more than others, it is thought the body's internal clock plays a key part.
Less sunlight can alter the brain’s biochemical imbalance and as a result less serotonin, which gives us the ‘feel good factor’ we all crave, is released. Reduced serotonin can lead to a dysfunction of the brain’s pathways and can cause depression, weight gain, and excessive fatigue.
Other theories suggest that SAD is linked to a lack of vitamin D, which is what our bodies generate when being in the sun.
If you think you might suffer from SAD, then I recommend you take action before the symptoms kick in.
The biggest struggle with any form of depression is trying to understand and make some sense of the debilitating feelings. This creates anxiety which will increase feelings of sadness and low self-esteem.
Spot the symptoms
Be prepared and plan ahead. The key to knowing whether you are actually affected by SAD could be reflecting on your mood through the summer months too.
Try not to isolate yourself from friends and family. Loneliness and isolation tend to exacerbate the effects of SAD so get into the habit of talking about how you are feeling.
Physical activity has been shown to boost mood, decrease the symptoms of depression, and reduce stress. Short walks can make a real difference.
Light the way
Get as much natural light into your life as you can during the darker months. Go outside as often as you can, especially on bright days. Sitting by a window can also help.
Ensure you follow a healthy diet as high intakes of sugar will leave you feeling tired and low. Omega 3, found in oily fish, can do wonders. For vegans and vegetarians try flaxseed, or algae-derived omega-3.
If symptoms persist, then go and see your GP who may prescribe an antidepressant or a supplement to boost your serotonin, but most importantly, remember that you are not alone.