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Oct 23, 2023

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What Is SAD And How To Handle It


As we’re getting deep into cosy season now in the UK I wanted to talk about something that I personally think is really important to be aware of.


And that is SAD.


Seasonal Affective Disorder.


This is where when the cosy season and dark mornings and nights draw in, a lot of people can feel like they’re in a big old funk and have no idea why.


So what is SAD and how can we deal with it?


Please bear in mind I’m not talking here as a medical professional but from my own experience and understanding of what boosts mood. So as always please do your own research and talk to your GP if you have any worries or concerns.


Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as the ‘winter blues’ or SAD, is essentially a type of depression and low mood that is affected by the seasons and changes in daylight hours. 


And, according to the NHS, over 2 million people suffer with it in the UK alone.


It can leave you feeling withdrawn and unmotivated. Like you don’t want to do anything, go anywhere or see anyone. 


It can be harder to stick to your routines. You might feel you need to sleep more and crave and comfort eat those carbs more. 


You might feel lethargic, general low energy, low sex drive, increased anxiety.


It often leads to us doing more of the very things that we know don’t make us feel good, and less of the things that do, so you can get into a little bit of a vicious cycle with it all. 


Which is definitely not pleasant all round.


The reason I wanted to highlight it is because you might be sitting there wondering what the hell is wrong and why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling and beating yourself up for it when you might not be able to put a finger on a reason.


And we don’t want that because it really doesn’t have to be that way. 


My firm belief is that often an understanding of where these kinds of thoughts and feelings are coming from, and what’s really happening in your brain and body, can really dissipate the control and affect that they can have.


You know I'm all about that sweet sweet awareness! For good reason.


It’s not all doom and gloom, there are lots of things that you can do to ease it and take back some of the control for yourself. 


You won’t be surprised but funnily enough, selfcare is even MORE important in these seasons if you’re struggling with SAD.


Consciously making sure you’re catching yourself in the moments where you’re about to do something that you KNOW makes you feel worse and consciously doing more of the things that make you feel good.


I think of it as bubble bath season. I know baths are absolutely cliche when it comes to talking about self care but they really are my ‘thing’. Put me in a bath or a hot tub and I am happy as Larry. Calm, zen, at peace, doing my breathing exercises. You will not see me for at least 2 hours and trust me when I say I’m going to be using all the fancy oils and products.  


Exercise is always going to be a winner when it comes to low mood.  Movement of any kind within your own capabilities is absolutely fine. We all have our own limits to work with. It’s about finding any possible ways around them that you can. If exercise isn’t possible for you for whatever reason it’s so worth talking to a professional about what might be possible for you.  


Watching what you eat. It’s comfort food season and I'm definitely not a subscriber these days to any kind of deprivation and saying one thing is allowed and another isn’t or is ‘naughty’ or you ‘shouldn’t’ have something. 


I subscribed to that school of thought for far too long and what I've found is shifting the focus to how you FEEL when you eat certain things really helps you make better choices. 


For example, I'm not going to have a huge portion of cottage pie in the middle of the day when I know I have work to do and I'll likely have a glucose spike and feel lethargic and ten times worse. 


I might, however, if i'm having a cosy night in front of the TV or a movie and i’m more than happy to be in a cosy little food coma afterwards. 


It’s about choice and agency over your choices. If it’s going to make you feel worse and you know it, don’t tell yourself you ‘can’t’ have it, just choose to have it at a time that is better for you and more in keeping with how you want to feel. 


Again, not a professional, this is just what has worked for me with a long history of eating and body issues. 


I refuse to feel shame about what I eat these days, but I also refuse to make myself feel awful WITH what I eat. 


Food has a HUGE impact on mood and we all know it so it’s worth paying attention to how certain foods make us feel.


Take a class or pick a new hobby. 


There is this feeling you get when you’ve done something new, or created something you didn’t know you could. It’s such a pure feeling. 


Get out there and do the things you love. 


Know that you’re likely to totally suck at it at first, but that also doesn’t even matter, if you love it, do it. 


Plus there’s the added benefits of meeting like minded people. 


Which leads me nicely onto…Be social. Even if that’s just messaging or calling a friend from your sofa. 


If that’s all you can muster it’s better than isolating. Isolation usually does nothing but make us feel worse and also pile on guilt for the fact we haven’t replied or reached out to people in a while. 


This is something I do all the time. The moment I feel a desire to isolate myself, I reach out. It changes the game every time. 


The next one is important, try to get as much natural light as possible. You can also get a SAD lamp which mimics sunlight while you’re inside. 


The one I use is from Lumi and available on Amazon. I put it straight on first thing in the morning, I do my make up and get ready in front of it. It makes a huge difference for me. 


Embrace the cosies as much as you can. Cosy socks, hot water bottles, blankets, cups of tea, soups. Whatever makes you feel like you’re having a warm hug and feel supported. Game changer. 


And finally, if you’re really struggling do not be afraid to seek professional help.  


Whether that’s a form of therapy, coaching, acupuncture or other body work modalities like Reiki or speaking to your GP. 


The more I study the field of human behaviour the more I’m desperate for people to understand it makes no logical sense for there to be any shame in seeking help. 


It’s a hugely empowering thing to do and in all honesty, I believe it’s essential for everybody. I promise you that the vast vast majority of the most successful people you see have multiple sources of help. 


This is because they know needing a little support sometimes is incredibly human and the best way out of our own automatic responses is to have them reflected back by someone who can see what you can’t see. That’s how you become the very best version of yourself. 


We’re not meant to sit there suffering thinking we’re the only ones to have these feelings. It’s so human and you are NOT alone by any stretch of the imagination. The more it’s out in the open the more we reduce shame and stigma. 


So essentially the message here is be conscious, do what you can to look after yourself and not beat yourself up, try to limit doing the things that you already know make you feel worse. Like eating lots of junk that you’ll beat yourself up for and feel sluggish afterwards. Or not being active because it’s cold but you know sitting on the sofa all day is going to make you feel worse about yourself too. Limit that stuff! 


So if you’re feeling it a bit at the moment, try doing any of these things and really try to consciously notice any differences in how you feel. Understand it’s likely not YOU. YOU are not always the problem!