It’s pretty grim, dark and miserable outside at the moment. I’m sure many of you are feeling the effects of barely seeing the sunlight at the moment. Well, I’ve always dreaded the winter months, literally since I can remember. The thought of it getting colder, wetter and darker just makes me want to hibernate.
I first remember feeling the dread of winter back at high school, when you’d look outside the classroom window and it was already getting dark before the final bell. The thought of walking home in the dark would make me want to stay at school! Even worse than the dark evenings, was the terribly cold and miserable mornings. I would find it almost unbearable to drag myself out of bed, which I and other people around me usually put down to me just being lazy! However, I barely slept under normal circumstances, so being able to sleep for hours and hours, especially during the day was a little unusual. I would tend to feel very down, grumpy and irritable throughout the colder months. I also started to notice I had very little to no energy, which again felt unusual as I was sleeping a lot more than I ever normally would.
It took a really difficult winter, during my first year of university, for me to think about seeing a doctor. In all honesty, I thought they were going to send me away and say I was just being a moody teenager, who likes her sleep when it’s cold outside. However, how wrong I was, surprisingly! The doctor asked me a variety of questions, ranging from my general eating pattern, my exercise routine, to my feelings during seasonal shifts. In the end, I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD for short, ironic huh!?
When I told my friends and family, they all seemed to suspect something similar, little did I realise how much my behaviour and mood was apparent to those around me. So, I started to change my habits during winter. It would mean I would try and go to sleep at a reasonable time to make sure I knew I was getting a good amount of sleep. I would also make sure to wake up at the same time each morning, trying to get myself into a pattern, which started to become a habit and helped my body get used to waking up at a certain time. My doctor told me how important it was to be outside during times when it was daylight, so during university I used to try and study or read outside when the weather permitted. Another SAD treatment, which has been hugely important for me, was light therapy. I was given an amazing present, a Lumie Bodyclock Starter which helps wake you up with a natural, gradually brightening light. It also does this in reverse with a sunset option, when the light slowly dims from your chosen time.
It’s still not fully understood what causes SAD or why some people experience it and others don’t. Although, it has been suggested that certain people are more vulnerable to SAD than others, due to their genes, as it has appeared to run in families. Like any diagnoses it can be a little scary to think you’re labelled with a disorder, I was definitely taken aback when my doctor told me. However, I’ve learnt it’s all about knowledge and management.
The reassuring thing is that there has now been lots of research done into trying to find ways of helping. That’s why I cannot stress enough how important it is to go and speak to a doctor if you think this may be something that is affecting you. Without speaking about things, you may never know any different and could be missing out on being able to feel so much better than you do now.
I spent my Sunday evening dreading the week ahead and I woke up this morning dreading getting out of bed. However, I eased myself into the very dark morning with my Lumie light and made myself a comforting cuppa tea. I’ll be making sure to eat healthy today and do some exercise before getting an early night. It’s time to start learning what works for you, and doing it, to start to feel more like you!
If you’re concerned or even just curious to find out a little more about SAD, please take a look at the NHS website and Click Here.