Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which appears over winter, affecting about 3% of people in the UK according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. It seems to be linked to a lower amount of sunlight, but it is not clear exactly how and why some people are affected more than others. Some people have suggested that humans once hibernated, and this might be a cause!
SAD has many of the same symptoms as clinical depression – including persistent low mood, lethargy/sleepiness and a feeling of disconnection or lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy. You may find you are sleeping and eating more (particularly carbohydrates), and being ill more often. It is also common to find it more difficult to think clearly or manage stress well.
If you think you have SAD, it is a good idea to see your GP in the first instance.
Your GP may offer you medication or lifestyle advice to ease symptoms. Some people find that making sure to get as much natural sunlight as possible eases symptoms, or use daylight-simulating lightbulbs or light boxes at home. Eating well, taking appropriate exercise and maintaining social links all seem to help.
As always, good self care can not only ease symptoms in themselves but also help you feel more in control. It is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle but one that is often brushed aside – some people feel guilty or self-indulgent for prioritising it. However, good self care not only helps us to feel better but it also means we are more able to help others. Nurturing of yourself is just as important as (if not more important than) being able to nurture others!