It’s freezing in the morning when I trudge to work and dark in the evening when I plod home.
But while drizzling showers, occasional thunderstorms, and the bitter wind is making me grumpy and irritable – I’m not struggling as much as some of my patients.
For some people, winter months herald the start of an horrendously low mood and a succession of “doona days” spent sheltering from the world in a blankety cocoon.
According to Dr Brad McKay for the Daily Mail, small number of people suffering from Major Depressive Disorder or Bipolar Disorder notice a pattern in their emotional wellbeing that changes with the seasons. Approximately 1 in 300 Australians experience Seasonal Affective Disorder, aptly abbreviated to the acronym “SAD”.
People affected by SAD are conscious of a marked decrease in their mood, low energy levels, little motivation, poor concentration, and can also experience changes in sleep, appetite and libido.
We still don’t know exactly what causes SAD, but it’s possible that cold weather, less sunlight, low vitamin D levels, diet changes, hormonal fluxes and decreased exercise could all trigger a deterioration in mood.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) classifies SAD patients as a subgroup of people suffering from Depression or Bipolar Disorder, who experience a significant decline in their mood at the same time every year. To be diagnosed with SAD, episodes of major depression need to occur around the change of season, for at least two years, with full resolution of symptoms during other times of the year.
We all have a tendency to feel a bit down over winter, but for people with SAD, their low mood is intolerable.
It can be difficult to function and people with SAD will often withdraw from social gatherings and become isolated, which further exacerbates their low mood.
But no matter how droll it looks outside, every day is precious and every season can be enjoyed.
Instead of hiding in your bedroom and wearing flannelette pyjamas for the entire winter, you can still get proactive about your SAD.
WELCOME THE SUN
Darkness comes quickly in the evening, so get up early and make the most of your daylight hours.
Sleep with your curtains slightly open so you can wake up slowly to the rising sun.
Heat gets sucked out through exposed windows so if it’s too cold to keep the curtains open, use a “light alarm” – an alarm clock designed to light up the room slowly, gently caressing you into consciousness by mimicking the sunrise.
WARM UP WITH EXERCISE
Put on some warm, weatherproof clothes and exercise as much as you can outside.
If it’s pouring down with rain, join a gym and regularly exercise in comfort.