I always thought everyone struggled during the winter months. I thought everyone fell into a cycle of being too tired and drained to do anything, being extremely irritable and having the suffocating feeling of being trapped in a dark hole of misery – not to mention the heightened feelings of anxiety and nausea. But apparently, they don’t!
Every year when the evenings begin to get darker, the mornings get colder and the leaves begin to turn crispy and brown, my internal body clock knows what’s around the corner.
It was around six years ago that I first remember experiencing these feelings. I was sixteen and vividly remember going into school every single day, in a never-ending bad mood, and thinking “I just want to go home and sleep this feeling away”. It was hard looking at my friends who were unfazed by the seasonal change and happy as ever, and constantly questioning why I felt how I did, with no explanation behind it at all.
SAD, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (a rather fitting acronym, I know), is a type of depression that you experience during certain seasons. Whilst SAD is more common in the autumn and winter months, many people also struggle during the transition from spring to summer.
Whilst the cause of SAD hasn’t yet been fully determined, it’s thought that the reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter months leads to an increased production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel tired) and a lower production of serotonin (the hormone that affects your mood, sleeping pattern and appetite). It’s also thought that individuals with a Vitamin D deficiency are more susceptible to SAD, as with less natural sunlight, comes less exposure to Vitamin D.
Whilst there is no specific cure for SAD, I have found a few coping mechanisms to help ease the symptoms when it comes to that dreaded time of year. Not all of these will work for everyone and it’s a case of trial-and-error and figuring out what works best for you and your mind.
Try not to hibernate in the winter months; come out into the fresh air with a positive attitude and try to find the beauty in these seasons!
*Writer's note: Starting from the 1st March, I will be taking part in Mind Charity's 27 27 campaign. 27% of students in the last year have reported a mental health problem while studying at university. Mind Charity is fundraising to help provide better mental health services in universities for students, by holding a 27 miles in 27 days challenge - and I'm taking part!
If you'd like to sponsor me in this challenge, click here and it'll take you to my fundraising page. Any donations are more than appreciated and go towards an amazing charity.
Big thank you to Nazym Jumadilova for such a beautiful image!