Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a mood disorder that affects many people in Northern countries. Sometimes termed the “winter blues”, it can be influenced by low Vitamin D levels in the body from a lack of sunlight. Our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) also plays a part in this mood disorder: during the fall and winter months, the shorter days and longer nights signal our brains to produce more melatonin, which makes our bodies feel tired.
Some symptoms of SAD/winter blues:
- Feeling more anxious or stressed than usual
- Sleeping more
- Weight gain
- Feelings of guilt, sadness, and despair
- Increased appetite (especially for sugar or carbohydrates)
- Decreased energy, fatigue
- Decreased interest in social activities or hobbies
What can you do?
The first thing to do would be to consult your doctor to be sure the symptoms are caused by SAD, as there are other physical and mental disorders such as a thyroid disorder or depression that can have very similar symptoms. ‘Light therapy’, which involves sitting under a very bright artificial light for about 30 minutes a day has been shown to help manage symptoms of SAD by helping the body adapt to lower levels of natural light. In severe cases, medication may be considered.
For all cases:
- getting outside every day for a short walk (with a warm beverage 😊)
- exercising regularly, if indoors, move exercise equipment near a window
- reorganizing furniture so you are near more light while inside
- trimming branches and bushes to allow light to enter the room
- taking a Vitamin D supplement daily (consult your doctor first to be sure it’s right for you)
- receive regular massage
Massage Therapy and SAD:
Massage feels good! The sheer fact that it feels good indicates that massage is beneficial for those who are feeling down due to the weather. It has been shown to reduce stress hormones and increase serotonin levels in the body, which is a natural pain reliever and is thought to increase feelings of well-being and happiness. Therapeutic touch can help you feel safe, comforted, and taken care of. Massage therapy is also very effective in treating muscular tension, which can be worse during the colder months as we try to curl up and stay warmer.
Engaging in activities and healthy habits that you enjoy can boost your mood and improve self- confidence. Although the days have only begun to shorten, start your self-care routine now and make it a habit by the time the snow is covering the ground.
External link for information on SAD: