Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s only October and I’ve already started dreading winter. Let’s be honest 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. The idea of having a diagnosable disorder, which I have since been told is called Seasonal Affective Disorder, was not something I had ever thought about.

I first remember feeling the dread of winter back at high school. I’d look outside the classroom window and it was already getting dark. Even 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, were the terribly cold and miserable mornings. I would find it almost unbearable to drag myself out of bed. However, I barely slept under normal circumstances. Therefore 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. Again, this 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. However, how wrong I was, surprisingly! The doctor asked me a variety of questions. From my general eating pattern, my exercise routine, to my feelings during seasonal shifts. I was finally told I was suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. 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. I would try and go to sleep at a reasonable time. Just 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 me into a pattern, which started to become a habit. It 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 bought a Lumie Bodyclock Starter. It 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 Seasonal Affective Disorder or why some people experience it and others don’t. Although, it has been suggested that certain people are more vulnerable to Seasonal Affective Disorder than others, due to their genes, as it has appeared to run in families. It can be scary knowing you have been diagnosed with any sort of disorder. I was definitely taken aback when my doctor told me. However, I have learnt it’s all about knowledge and management.

It’s reassuring to know that researchers are finding more ways to help people manage their SAD. That’s why I cannot stress enough how important it is to go and speak to a doctor. Otherwise, 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 about Seasonal Affective Disorder, please take a look at the NHS website and Click Here.

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