Don’t be SAD this winter

Don’t be SAD this winter

Understanding and Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) - By Alison Cullen

Reading time: 4 minutes

For most of us the seasonal blues pass relatively quickly but for some they develop into a mild depressive condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD for short.

SAD or just a little sad? If symptoms occur for at least two winters in a row with remission in the spring months, a diagnosis of SAD is usually made. It is referred to as seasonal because it is mostly triggered by a lack of sunlight during the darker months, and is estimated to affect as many as one in 15 people in the UK.

Insufficient sunlight can affect our levels of serotonin, the so-called happy hormone responsible for our sense of wellbeing, and melatonin, which is responsible for normal sleeping patterns. Low mood, lack of concentration and energy, difficulty sleeping, flu-like aches and pains and a change in appetite are some of the most common symptoms.

Happily, there are a number of steps you can take to help lessen the effects.

Chase the light! It might be cold outside but wrap up warm and brave the elements, especially when the sun is shining. Early morning exercise can help to improve your mood for the rest of the day thanks to the ‘feel good’ endorphins it helps to release.

Diet is also important. Mood-friendly foods include beans, avocados, bananas and wheatgerm as they help the body to produce more serotonin. Whole foods such as grains, root vegetables and fresh fruit will give you a welcome boost of energy and foods rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids, such as fish and seeds, can help to support general brain health.

Oat-based cereals (porridge especially)* are a great way to start the day because they are an excellent source of B vitamins, which help to convert food into energy. Deficiency has been linked directly to low mood, so it’s well worth topping up.

Vitamin D* is also important and you will often hear of it being referred to as the sunshine vitamin owing to how it is naturally produced in the body when we are exposed to sunlight. Of course this means deficiency during the winter months is relatively common. Mushrooms, eggs and fish are good food sources or a vitamin D* supplement or spray can help to ensure you’re getting enough.

Keep your stress in check: stress, if left to spiral out of control, can aggravate symptoms of depression. Foods that can help here include blueberries, raspberries and strawberries to help prevent the release of cortisol, a hormone released by your adrenal glands.

Herbal remedies can also help. For trouble sleeping a natural sleep remedy can help. Dormeasan® Sleep* with extracts of fresh Valerian and Hops can help you get to sleep and also stay in the deeper stages of sleep for longer. Take 30 drops in a little water half an hour before bedtime.

For feelings of sluggishness, low mood or mild anxiety there’s St. John’s Wort or Hypericum. Scientists believe it works by prolonging the action of serotonin and by increasing levels of melatonin. Hyperiforce tablets can help but bear in mind that Hypericum can take up to six weeks for best results, and it can interact with other medications and affect the way they work, so isn’t suitable for everyone. Check with your GP first if on prescribed medicines.

If Hypericum is not for you, you could try A.Vogel’s Passiflora Complex Spray*. A gentle, non-addictive relaxing blend of herbs for those needing to relax, it combines Passiflora (passionflower) and Lemon Balm. The handy spray makes it ideal for using on-the-go.

*commission earned from this link

Alison Cullen

Hello. My name is Alison Cullen and I am an experienced nutritional therapist with a clinic in Ayrshire, Scotland. I am also a qualified sleep consultant. I currently combine running my clinic with the role of Education Manager for A Vogel.