Now that the cold dull days and long nights of winter are well and truly with us, many people will be suffering from a dip in their cheerfulness and energy levels, and will be feeling more interested in sleeping (and eating!) than working, socialising or studying.
The disorder comes about due to a lack of daylight hours during the winter when many of us go to work or school in the dark, and return in the dark. Some people seem to require more light than other, and these are the people who are more prone to an annual attack of SAD.
Below is a list of symptoms of SAD as written by Mind.org:
• Lack of energy
• More prone to illness than normal
• Depression (feeling sad, hopeless & apathetic)
• Mood changes
• Anxiety and panic attacks
• Social problems
• Concentration problems
• Loss of sex drive
• Alcohol and/or drug abuse
As you can see from the list we are talking about a serious and debilitating disorder here which can be difficult to treat. One way of attempting to control SAD is to use light therapy. Bright light therapy (or phototherapy) is the most effective form of treatment currently available and often produces results within days. Most people will use a light box to receive their therapy which contains very bright light bulbs. Simply sitting next to the box for a specific amount of time and continuing with tasks such as reading, working, eating or watching TV can lead to a vast improvement in mood.
Another excellent treatment for SAD is exercise! Exercise releases the chemical serotonin which is responsible for making us feel good and for fighting off depression. People who suffer from SAD have lower than normal levels of serotonin in the brain, so are often treated with antidepressants such as Seroxat and Prozac. However, if you would rather increase your serotonin levels in a more natural way, swimming on a bi-weekly basis could be the answer. Combining a relaxing weekly exercise regime with a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables will stand you in good stead for managing this disorder effectively. You will be loving winter again in no time!
If you would like to try swimming as a treatment for SAD discuss it with your doctor first, and do not stop taking any medication which has been prescribed to you unless told to by your doctor.
For more information about SAD visit the Seasonal Affective Disorder Association website here.