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Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder: A Holistic approach

Updated: Oct 24, 2023



As the weather turns cold and the days grow shorter, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) starts to impact many people's lives.


What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that manifests at specific times of the year. Whilst SAD can occur during the spring and summer, it is much more common in the autumn and winter months, as the weather turns colder, and the days grow shorter. The condition is more than just "winter blues," and its impact can range from mild to severe, affecting daily functioning and quality of life.


What causes SAD?

The exact cause of SAD is not fully understood, but it's generally believed to be related to the lack of sunlight during the shorter days of the year. This can lead to an imbalance in neurotransmitters like serotonin, affecting mood, and disrupting the body's internal clock, or circadian rhythm, resulting in sleep disturbances.


Who is Affected?

Whilst SAD can affect anyone, the condition is more prevalent in women and young adults. It can also be more severe for people with a history of depression or bipolar disorder.


The Impact

SAD goes beyond feeling "down." It can lead to significant depressive episodes, withdrawal from social activities, and can even impair work performance and relationships.


Symptoms of SAD

Persistent low mood

Loss of interest in daily activities

Irritability

Feelings of despair, guilt, or worthlessness

Fatigue

Difficulty concentrating

Changes in sleep and appetite, often with weight gain.


Coping strategies

If you are struggling with SAD, implementing some practical strategies can be helpful:

  • Optimise Natural Light Exposure - The significance of natural light cannot be overstated. Taking a walk during lunch breaks or working near windows can positively influence your mood.

  • Regular Exercise - Exercise is universally recommended for most forms of depression, including SAD. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which naturally elevates your mood. The benefits are twofold when you exercise outdoors, combining physical activity with natural light exposure.

  • Maintain Social Connections - Isolation worsens SAD. Make plans with friends or family, even if it’s just a quick chat.

  • Nutritional Balance - A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients like Vitamin D and low in processed foods, can be effective for improving symptoms. Your dietary choices significantly influence how you feel.

  • Structured Routine - Keeping a consistent sleep and meal schedule can stabilise your internal clock.

Treatment strategies

While conventional methods such as Light Therapy, Psychotherapy, specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and medication each have their merits according to individual circumstances, Hypnotherapy offers another layer of treatment that can address the issue more holistically.


The Role of Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy offers a different lens through which to explore and manage SAD and helps with:-

  • Emotional Triggers - Hypnotherapy delves deep into the subconscious to reveal emotional triggers that conventional therapies might not access.

  • Thought Reprogramming - In a state of heightened focus and relaxation, Hypnotherapy can help you reframe negative thought patterns and change unhelpful behaviours associated with SAD.

  • Dietary Choices - Guided visualisations can make healthier foods seem more appealing, supporting a balanced diet.

  • Stress Management - Stress management techniques through Hypnotherapy can offer much-needed relief and relaxation.

  • Motivation for exercise - Exercise is often recommended to alleviate depression, but the lack of motivation associated with SAD can make even getting started seem overwhelming. Hypnotherapy can help you to overcome mental barriers to physical activity.

  • Sleep - Hypnotherapy can help you enter a state of deep relaxation, allowing your mind to let go of the anxieties which may be contributing to sleep difficulties. It also helps to reset your internal clock, making it easier for you to fall asleep at a consistent time each night.

Conclusion

Seasonal Affective Disorder is a complex issue that often requires a multifaceted approach for effective management. Alongside traditional treatments and practical coping methods, Hypnotherapy can offer a holistic avenue which seeks to address its root causes, manage symptoms and transform the winter months from a period of dread to an opportunity for personal growth.


The information contained in this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be considered a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you or someone you know has symptoms of depression, it is always best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional.

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