Probably the best named disorder going – SAD. Stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. Does exactly what it says on the tin.
It happens this time of year. Darkness creeps in as the clocks go back. Waking in the dark; leaving work in the dark. And 7.5 hours of U.V. lights and chit-chat in-between. All of it feeling a bit unnatural and as if you are wading through perpetual darkness missing that critical ingredient – sunlight.
There are lots of treatments for SAD. Some take Vitamin D pills, some have SAD lamps. Some bugger off to Spain for the winter (I know which I’d choose – I love lamps!), but for the rest of us, it can sometimes feel like hunkering down for the endless trudge of winter.
Icy mornings, numb toes. A long way until summer.
Understandably, this makes some people SAD.
The good thing about SAD is that yes, lamps, vitamins and sunny Spain of course can cheer people up (often being prescribed by GPs, sadly not available on the NHS); but the CBT perspective is far more simple.
Because the truth is that SAD is characterised by exactly the same symptoms as typical depression; it’s just the trigger that’s changed.
SAD people (again, so well-named) don’t go to the gym anymore. They’ve stopped seeing their friends. WhatsApp notification back up and everything just feels like a massive chore. Work is dull and food is bland. You may find yourself tearful or easily distracted. Sound familiar? There is big crossover here with our usual pesky mental health visitors aright. You’ve become depressed. And depression is treatable!
So, what can we do about it?
Well, the simple answer is to treat it in the same way as we treat any depressive episode: lean towards the activities which you find value or meaning in. This might be self care, it might be exercise, it might be a hobby. It doesn’t really matter, so long as you know it feels right for you. A clue is that you may have actually stopped doing this since the SAD really kicked in. So, take a moment – have you let anything go which you used to love? Can you label an activity in your mind which has brought you joy before but currently feels overwhelming? Start here. If it still feels too much, try and break this down into manageable chunks.
Be structured with your time
Having reflected on activities that matter to you, noticing how overwhelming they can feel at times, and breaking them down into manageable chunks, treat yourself to a planner. Note down all your responsibilities that you know you’ll be doing, such as work, school runs, dog walks and food shops. Notice the space you have free. What would you usually be doing with this time? Mindless scrolling/ T.V.? Make a deal with yourself. You can still sit mindlessly of an evening if you wish, but only AFTER you do 20 minutes of your valued activity first. Hopefully this feels like a fair and manageable goal. Repeat this every day! Next week – try adding in a new activity, or stretching the 20 minute window to 30.
Hopefully, with a bit of practice, repetition and consistency, you’ll start feeling like you again in no time.
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