Health & wellbeing

How to overcome seasonal depression

07 Nov 2022 | Written by Jennifer Cromar

Rain drops on glass, with a lightly cloudy sky in the background

As the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, we had Jennifer Cromar write her tips on how to battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Did you know you can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in any season?

I see a child on their mummy’s shoulders, blue welly boots on, holding a delightful umbrella showered in white and yellow daisies. I may not have SAD now, however come May loneliness engulfs me, it stays all summer. I cannot stand the heat, the garish sun, clothes not light enough due to low body confidence, busy beaches, queues for ice cream when you yourself melt.

When September comes I breathe a sigh of relief. Monday morning, as I write now, sky white, raining. It rained through the night. I was awake due to a car alarm. Rhinitis makes me sniff and sneeze at any smell. I feel quite terrible BUT I do love Autumn, love Mondays, do not mind the rain, love seeing lights, umbrellas, especially brightly coloured rainbow ones like that gleeful child had.

Whilst researching SAD for this article, someone shared how at this time of year they feel “desolate”, “zapped of all energy” having to rest a couple of extra hours a day, their “internal battery has run down”, “everything is harder to cope with”. Another lady wrote me a list of her symptoms saying she “dislikes dark mornings, dislikes dark evenings, dislikes cold, dislikes rain, dislikes wearing so many layers”, that “money worries increase” due to heating and Christmas.

SAD symptoms are like those of depression, except they happen at a particular time of year, each year. Some signs are: 

  • Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy. 
  • Feeling down/frustrated. 
  • Anxiety. 
  • Feeling less able to deal with stress. 
  • Poor self esteem. 
  • Feeling less sociable. 
  • Low libido.
  • Crying more.
  • Feelings of despair, hopelessness, guilt.

National Institute for health Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that SAD be treated as depression. Treatments can take the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), anti-depressants, vitamin D (one person joked they have to “pretty much mainline vitamin D all winter”). Light therapy boxes are effective. 

Here are some mindfulness techniques that may help you get through the difficult seasons:

  1. Does the season remind you of any past upset/trauma? One person gets SAD terribly due to the passing of a loved one. Once that anniversary has passed, they “get lighter”, coinciding with the months getting lighter. Awareness of triggers is the first step to change.
  2. Watch your words… do you notice any thoughts coming into your head? Like the woman who said “dislike” so many times, do you find yourself saying “I can’t stand the dark”, “I can’t stand the rain”? Words have such power. They effect your energy levels. Changing your self talk is like doing self CBT. Gently challenge “I hate winter” thoughts. 
  3. Make a list of things you do love about the season. 
  4. Try to not see it as the whole of winter. Break it down. For example, weekends can be especially hard due to increased isolation. Ask yourself: when exactly on the weekend? The mornings could be good, relaxed with a lie-in, coffee, reading. Sunday evenings also ok, getting ready for the week, making sure clothes are ironed. Pinpoint the problem, i.e. do you feel at your lowest on Sunday afternoons?
  5. Cherish the sunny moments. Get out in them as much as possible. You are solar powered! See beauty in other weathers, how all are necessary and divinely arranged. You can be wind and rain powered too!
  6. Plant bulbs. The hope and promise this brings is healing.
  7. Practise self care. Cherish yourself. Rest. Enjoy cosy food, hot water bottles, soft blankets, socks, hot chocolate mindfully held and sipped. Make a list of one treat a week. Arm yourself with things that you do love. For example, that child in the blue welly boots with their daisy umbrella – get yourself an umbrella that you love so much you look forward to putting it up! Get shoes for the rain that you love to walk in! Be like a child, with a sense of wonder, maybe even splash in puddles!
  8. Talk therapy: sharing your feelings with a therapist may be extremely helpful to get to any root causes and/or trauma of why you find the time of year so difficult.
  9. There are many apps to help you try meditation, helping you stay in the day, in the moment. Theories suggest SAD could be caused by a disturbance in the pineal gland, meditation helps regulate this.
  10. Remember life does not go round in a circle, but as a spiral. There is always an ever-increasing distance between this year and previous years.

When to see a doctor: if you are crying more, feeling despair, hopelessness, isolating or having suicidal thoughts please seek help from your GP. 

Please share in the comments anything that you do that helps, or what the article has made you think of. Such understanding can go a long way to help others.

Next Monday, Jennifer will host her own session on how to support others. Book now and learn how you can become a better friend to those who need support. 

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