Are You SAD?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is appropriately known as SAD, is a form of depression, most common from October to March, when the days are shorter.
Symptoms of SAD typically build up in autumn and winter; and include hopelessness, increased appetite (with weight gain,) increased sleep, less energy, loss of interest in work/activities, sluggish movements and social withdrawal. There may be an overwhelming desire to go into full hibernation mode, with only carbohydrates and blankets for company.
Though full-time Hygge may be tempting, it's important to get up and get out, rather than just doing the bare minimum. So for you mums and dads who are feeling a little under the weather, take a look at our list of simple things to help keep you going:
Particularly for stay at home moms, tracksuits and pyjamas become your go-to wardrobe when you’re feeling tired and under the weather. Try to combat negative feelings by reaching for bright, fun, interesting clothing: This may mean different things to different people, but give yourself permission to wear something that makes you feel good, not just comfortable! You would be surprised the effect it can have: Interesting clothes are a great conversation starter, and a compliment from a friend or stranger on your morning run to the shop could instantly pick up your mood. Wearing flirty matching underwear can be a mood-lifter and help keep a smile on your face; even if no one is going to see it!
Get some air
It's not always possible to head out for a relaxing walk, but scientists have proven that getting as much natural light and fresh air is vital for tackling the symptoms of SAD. Even opening a window and letting some air into the house can refresh your perspective. Research has also found that opening the window after it has rained outside, can increase exposure to negative ions in the air, which helps relieve symptoms of SAD.
Make the most of daylight
If possible get outside in the daylight: Go for a run, walk to the shop, or whatever suits you; we already have fewer hours of sunlight, so make the most of them while you can. At the very least make sure your curtains/blinds are open, and overhanging branches outside etc are trimmed; to maximise the light you get. And if you work in an office, get outside at lunch; don't just stay at your desk!
If you need an extra boost, some studies have claimed that spending time with a SAD Light Therapy box for a few minutes every day can help alleviate symptoms. Light boxes work by creating a simulation of sunlight; so that the Melanopsin receptors in the eyes can trigger the required Serotonin release within the brain for natural sleep cycles and general feelings of well-being. SAD Lamps emit light to a minimum of 2,500 lux (the unit of intensity light is measured in) with specific bulbs created with diffusers to make the light from the bulbs softer on the eyes.
Surround Yourself With Positivity
When its finally your turn to monopolize the telly, forsake murder mysteries or the news, and switch on the slapstick instead. Laughter is the best medicine for good reason! Scientists say that the physical act of laughter releases endorphins, which are the brain chemicals that make you happy. (Though if you want a little drama and laughter, we recommend any of the Real Housewives shows.)
This is true for what you listen to and read as well: Put on those cheesy tunes, listen to a comedy podcast, or read a trashy novel ... it's good for your health!
During these cold months when you’re all stuck indoors, doing laps around the breakfast bar for exercise gets old quick. But moderate exercise that increases your heart rate slightly such as walking, yoga, swimming and cycling, carried out 4 days a week over a 2 month period, will greatly increase your serotonin levels.
Working out doesn’t have to feel like work, and you don’t have to join a gym. Doctor permitting, bust out a yoga DVD or commandeer your kids Wii, plug in a fun workout game, like Just Dance 3, and sweat it out to rev up those feel-good endorphins.
When Mother Nature traps us indoors, a day without adult conversation can leave us feeling isolated and depressed. Nothing cheers a girl up like good gab, so let your kids amuse themselves for 10 minutes while you reach out and connect with someone supportive; whether you arrange a lunch-date, or just catch up over the phone. Studies show that regular social interaction can boost mood-lifting serotonin levels by as much as 40 percent!
If low moods are affecting you badly, don't hold it in: It will only make things worse if they build up. Talk to a friend, visit your GP or a therapist, and get things out there. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health; not just for you, but the whole family.
If you are suffering from SAD like symptoms, you need to eat for your mood; and this doesn't just mean comfort food. Look out for foods rich in Vitamin D and B12, Omega-3, and Tryptophan (which helps Seratonin to be released into the body.) Seratonin is a chemical in the body which regulates the mood, appetite, sleep, muscle contraction and memory among other things. A lack of serotonin therefore can lead to sleep problems, eating disorders and panic attacks.
A diet rich in carbohydrates such as barley, oats, sweet potato and squash; proteins such as chicken, turkey, white fish, pork, veal, lamb, and cottage cheese; plus seeds, nuts, bananas, low fat milk, soy, and legumes will help usher tryptophan to the brain. Also eat plenty of oily fish, spinach, and flax-seeds for Omega-3; eggs, fortified cereals, fortified soy/almond milk, and beef for Vitamin B12 and D.
To get that sweet hit switch to 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate, which not only contains less sugar, but also contains polyphenols which are known to relieve feelings of anxiety and depression.
Spending time in a natural place such as a park or at the seashore, praying, meditating and engaging in relaxing activities such as crafts all help raise serotonin levels. If you're not sure where to start, get an adult colouring book, join a local class, or listen to a meditation app like Headspace. As little as 5 minutes meditation a day can make all the difference over time.
Serotonin production requires at least 7 hours of sound, continuous sleep the night before (yes, we know that might seem impossible at times!) Switch off your phone, stay away from screens, and go to bed nice and early. Winding down with hot bath, a book, or perhaps a scented candle; can help you to drift off. Struggle with sleep? Try to go to bed and get up at a regular time; avoid caffeine after 2pm; develop a calming bedtime routine; and keep your bedroom cool, dark, and tech-free.
Be good to yourself
Looking after yourself is important, and only needs to take as long as you have; so don't push it aside with excuses. What will brighten your day? Making a to-do list and ticking things off? Cooking a favourite recipe for the family? Organising your wardrobe? Getting a hair cut? Going out for an evening without the kids? Think of what you'd like to do, and do it: You deserve it.
Do you suffer from SAD? What do you do to alleviate symptoms? We'd love to hear.