SAD is a seasonal affective disorder by which most are affected in the winter months. It comes when the amount of sun exposure and daylight hours become lessened which affects the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is what is responsible for driving our mood and helps to generate positive energy.
For 10% of SAD sufferers, it can also present itself in summer. Occurring more commonly in places where there are adverse weather conditions and summer temperatures take a dramatic surge. Topping the list are countries such as Australia, India, and the USA.
How SAD might come about
‘Reverse’ SAD can typically be caused by too much sun which causes the melatonin levels in our body to come to a halt. Melatonin is what’s responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycle. When this is out of kilter can leads to difficulty switching off and falling asleep at night. We are all becoming more attune to the importance of sleep to enable our bodies to function sufficiently. So understandably prolonged restless nights can become debilitating to our mental health if not dealt with properly.
Summer is usually associated with great weather, more time spent outdoors, and going on holiday. As such someone dealing with SAD will likely struggle to accept and feel validated in their feelings. On the surface, there appears to be so much to look forward to. But this is not reflected in their internal state.
There is a lot of pressure we put on ourselves and feel externally to look and feel a certain way. Being sure to make the most of the season with constant trips and plans to fill up the social calendar. It’s no wonder people start to retreat into themselves and feel overwhelmed by all that is going on around them.
Kelly Rohan, a professor at the University of Vermont sited that “individuals with SAD seem to have higher sensory processing sensitivity, which makes them more vulnerable to environmental factors”. Studies have also found that women and those that have experienced previous mental health issues are most likely to suffer.
Dealing with SAD
If you think you could be dealing with symptoms of SAD it’s worth taking some time to reflect on your feelings and how they could be relative to any environmental factors around you. Doing some research of your own could also be beneficial. There is increasing information and studies out there about the disorder.
There is a quiz you can take which helps distinguish between dealing with SAD and non-seasonal depression. This could also help make things clearer and put things into perspective for you. You can find it here
With any mental health issue, the most important step comes in realising there is something wrong and taking action in some form. Here are some of the ways you can go about relieving symptoms and getting help.
Prioritise sleep & adopting a healthy lifestyle: There is lots of evidence to back up the power of consistent sleep and being mindful of what you put into your body, can do for your mental health
Try taking cool showers and keeping your home well ventilated
Having a cool body temperature may help reduce feelings of agitation and make it easier to drift off to sleep
Install blackout curtains/blinds in your bedroom
Lighter evenings can create a barrier to having a regular sleep routine. So having your room as dark as possible will help encourage your body and mind to be ready for sleep
Take time for yourself
Have some time in the day to wind down particularly in early mornings/later in the day when temperatures are cooler
Reflect on your schedule
If you are finding your number of commitments to prompt unwanted feelings consider revising what is most important to you. May it be that you take more staycations and time for self-care
If you suspect yourself or anyone around you to be suffering from SAD you should always seek professional help. Your doctor will be able to provide you with the necessary support and guidance tailored to your needs.