Now that we’re starting to experience the first signs of autumn, I thought that it was best to write the latest blog post on S.A.D, and how it affects me, the symptoms, causes, and ways in which I manage it; so that I can enjoy the Autumn/Winter seasons to the max!
What is S.A.D?
S.A.D is an acronym for the medical condition Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression more likely to develop in the Autumn and Winter seasons.
Although some sufferers present symptoms during the Spring and Summer time. If you’re one of those individuals, the techniques which I state within this post, can be adapted accordingly to suit your personal needs.
The symptoms listed below have been sourced via the NHS.uk website, and are correct on the publishing date.
Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder typically begin in Autumn, and last for the duration of Autumn and Winter. However, some people present the onset of symptoms in Spring.
💛A persistent low mood
💛A loss of pleasure or interest in everyday activities or hobbies (anhedonia)
💛Becoming less sociable
💛Feeling stressed or anxious
💛Feelings of despair, guilt, or worthlessness
💛Reduced sex drive
💛Developing hypersomnia (sleeping for longer than normal), and finding it difficult to get up in the morning
💛An increase in appetite, and an increased craving for carbohydrates – subsequently being linked to weight gain
💛Feeling lethargic, and struggling to stay awake during the day
💛Being less active than usual
Although the definitive cause has yet to be determined, Seasonal Affective Disorder has been linked to the following:
1. Production of Melatonin
Melatonin is a sleep hormone, and those with Seasonal Affective Disorder may produce it in higher amounts, causing symptoms such as lethargy, and hypersomnia.
2. Production of Serotonin
Serotonin is a hormone which aids in controlling your mood, appetite, and sleep. A reduction in sunlight could cause a reduction in serotonin levels, thus causing depression.
3. The circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock, and your body uses sunlight in many important functions, such as when to wake up. Therefore, a reduction in sunlight could interrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to symptoms of S.A.D.
How S.A.D. Affects Me: Then Vs. Now
Before I fully understood my triggers, symptoms, behavioural patterns, and how to put measures in place to help improve my overall state of mind, I despised the Autumn and Winter months because of how utterly miserable I felt.
Yet even though I still see an increase in my anxiety and depression, as well as some other factors which I shall discuss below, I have found different strategies to make it easier to live with.
Changes in self-esteem
This is a big one. During the Autumn and Winter, as I’ve said, my depression and anxiety increase, which leave me more vulnerable because of the increased stressors affecting my mental wellbeing.
This increases the likelihood of my self-image and self-perception being distorted by negative thoughts seeing opportunity to present themselves. My personal sticking points revolve around body-image. Which is why I see an increase in body-dysmorphic thoughts, and urges to listen to eating disorder thoughts.
However the difference between the Then vs. Now, is that I used to persistently act upon self-harm, and eating disorder related thoughts – whereas now, I’m thankful to say, I have been clean of acting upon these thoughts for the vast majority of the year, and certainly not recently.
Although this doesn’t mean that I don’t experience the thoughts and urges, I’ve just learned how to rationalise them, and understand why I’m experiencing them. This does take time, but I was able to do so with practice, and speaking to mental health professionals, as well as reading body positivity blogs, and recovery blogs; which put into perspective that I wasn’t alone in my thoughts and feelings.
Heightened anxiety and manic behaviour
Overtime I have been able to establish that there is a strong link between my anxiety and depression, however this doesn’t mean that they are always equally as significant as the other; because each condition has its own triggers, and is worse at times, than the other.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that when my S.A.D. begins to display symptoms, my depression and anxiety increase as a result. Although, I typically find that my generalised anxiety is worse in the Autumn and Winter, simply because of the increase in stressors which again, affect my overall mental wellbeing – and reduce the space upon my mental plate even further; leaving little room for managing anxiety.
My anxiety can range from low-medium, medium-high, and severe. To put it into perspective, I can be anxious yet still be able to achieve daily goals and function semi-normally, or it can be as bad as feeling severely nauseated, flares of my I.B.S. (I’ll save you the graphic details thank me later), causing extreme panic attacks, which feel more like heart attacks than anything else, physically shaking, and losing feeling in my hands and feet.
So why I could easily experience manic behaviour, or feelings of being totally derailed – is clear to see. However, now because I have a greater understanding the relationships between my different mental health conditions respectively, I understand how to put measures in place to significantly reduce the risk of spiralling; which is something which used to happen waaaay more commonly than it does now (thank GOD).
Increase in PTSD attacks or thoughts
I’m going to keep this one to a minimum, simply because I don’t really understand my PTSD much at all, so there hasn’t been much of a change. Yet I have identified triggers, and know to put measures in place to prevent them as much as possible.
However, I must say I do still feel in the dark; although there is a significant link between my levels of anxiety, and the likelihood of a PTSD attack from occurring.
Which is why I try to work on controlling my anxiety, and understanding it more, as I know that specialist trauma therapy will help me to advance my understanding of my PTSD.
After having S.A.D for around 2/3 years now, I am no longer willing to be swept under the wave of misery which depression can bring.
However, that does NOT discount your feelings or your personal experience with your depression; everyone’s condition is caused by different things, triggered by different things, and presents itself in different ways.
After religiously practicing self-care for the vast majority of this year, I have seen a significant improvement in my ability to make as many adjustments to my life to make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, and in this case I have incorporated many different techniques into my self-care routine which help me appreciate the Autumn season during activities which I enjoy.
Therefore by doing this, I’m training my brain to associate the Autumn and Winter seasons with rewarding and partaking in healthy practices.
How to get the most out of Autumn
Throughout the duration of summer, I had prime opportunity to consider the negative impact that fearing or resenting a season will do.
Therefore, I am learning to see my seasonal affective disorder as purely biological factors, and to address it from a psychological viewpoint, in attempts to prevent my mental health from obscuring the world in front of me.
Autumn is a gorgeous season, and I have the privilege of living in a rural area – which allows me to see the different changes progress in person. Which is something I am certainly thankful for, as many don’t have the ability to do so.
So, instead of viewing nature’s seasons as separate to my everyday life, I am incorporating them into everything, to prevent detachment from the world around me as much as possible. Below I have compiled different ideas for ways to do so.
🍁 🍁 🍁 🍁 🍁 🍁
- Follow pinterest craft pages, and make personalised items to decorate your home, or gift to friends and family.
- Attend a themed event with a friend. This may be pumpkin picking, attending a christmas market, going carolling, or watching the fireworks.
- Create a cosy space to relax in, and allow yourself to retreat there for a few hours at the end of a long day at school/work – after you’ve done your housework or any homework. This space is to rewind in, to help create a routine which promotes relaxation, and prevents any distractions from invading this peaceful space.
I do this by simply hanging some fairy lights, lighting a scented candle which reminds me of the season, and getting comfortable on my bed after I’ve made it.
- Prepare your self-care schedule, whilst incorporating different seasonal activities.
- Print out a selection of themed seasonal pictures and create a happiness wall.
- Create your own screen saver based around your favourite aspect of a particular season.
Finally, I would just like to take this opportunity to stress the importance of incorporating self-care into your everyday routine, even if you don’t suffer from a physical or mental health condition.
However, these tools are NOT replacements for medical care. Seeking medical attention is vital in securing a diagnosis, and to receive a prescription for anti-depressants and a referral to a counselling service. Although, it’s important to mention that counselling services are also ran separately to specific government-funded organisations, and you can self-refer to charitable services, such as Streetwise.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. They aren’t entirely different, they both put stress on the nervous system when left unattended to, yet through proper self-care practices, such as eating healthily, exercising in accordance with your physical ailments, and getting 8+ hours of sleep all have an impact on how healthy we are overall.
Therefore, I implore you to begin to view your mental health with the same regard as you would with your physical health, and to make your overall wellbeing your top priority. We aren’t on this earth simply to exist and be constantly busy. We are to live this life with as much fulfillment as possible. This starts at home, and to live is to learn; start learning to understand yourself in greater detail, and use techniques (like those listed above) to give yourself a strong, grounded foundation in which to build your future.
Lots of love,