Feeling SAD

Every year around the start of Autumn I start to feel frustrated and rather low for no real reason other than that the dark evenings drawing in earlier each day. Although I haven’t been to the doctor to have it diagnosed, I’m pretty sure it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder. My symptoms- lack of energy and enthusiasm, increased tiredness and anxiety- are typical of the disorder which has gained in recognition in recent years. More people are aware it’s a ‘thing’ and more people are seeking help for the condition.

I’m not a fan of the dark and typically feel lethargic and somewhat claustrophobic when darkness sets in on a day. Many people, often referred to as ‘night owls’, feel more productive at night, yet I just want to curl up and sleep in hope that the light of the following day will return quicker. As an outdoorsy person I feel relaxed when surrounded by nature and the natural landscape. Watching and appreciating the world fills me with enthusiasm and wonder. Darkness just fills me with boredom and misery.

I thought my frustrations and anxiety was largely due to leaving for work in the dark and getting home in the dark, meaning I didn’t see my animals in daylight or get to outside to process some vitamin D. However, since being made redundant and setting up SocialRocks, I still feel much the same as previous years.

I’ve lightly researched the condition several times in previous years I probably have the milder version of the two types of SAD; Subsyndromal-SAD as it is know or S-SAD for short. It doesn’t really effect me enough to be concerned of to bother taking up my doctor’s time but it’s comforting to know I’m not the only sole feeling a bit mad at this time of the year.

My research has even led me to question whether SAD is actually a disorder at all. The condition has been linked to a lack of access to light which increases natural melatonin levels within our bodies. Melatonin is the same hormone that regulates hibernation in animals so it sounds plausible that the symptoms are just a way of our bodies telling us to slow down at this time of year. This would mean this so called ‘disorder’ is just a natural part of being animals- which we are.

Either way, the darkness makes me miserable. I’m sure most people will agree that getting up in the mornings while it’s still pitch black outside is less than inspiring and extremely hard. One godsend that’s helping me on these dark morning is a ‘SAD light’. I’ve debated getting one for the last few winters but the hefty price tag of the recommended make, the Lumie Bodyclock and it’s disproportionately few negative reviews on Amazon still managed to put me off. However, my boyfriend surprised me with one for my birthday present back in September and it’s been a significant element of our nightly routine ever since. Waking up to a room filled with close-to-natural looking light makes mornings more bearable than opening my eyes to pitch black and the shocking sound of my alarm ringing from my bedside table. The light slowly and consistently brightens over 30 minutes, imitating a sunrise. It even does the reverse for bedtime which is great for us as we spend time chatting before drifting off. The gradual dimming light is calming, helping me to relax and drop off.

All the advice I have read suggests spending moor time outside to get access to natural daylight. From next week I will make an effort to go for a stroll at lunchtime to increase the time I spend outside. I’m also going to sign up to a yoga class with my sister to learn how to clear my mind and relax. I do believe that the biological effects are amplified by my mental state so hopefully training my mind will help reduce my anxiety.

Do you suffer similar symptoms at this time of year? Have you been diagnosed with SAD? I’d love to hear from others experiencing similar anxiety problems related to the seasons.

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing – it's good to read that others talk about this. I know quite a few that suffer from SAD, including myself. I use the Lumie lamp, which is a great help, but still am so slow in winter mornings. I use music at work (ipod and earphones to not disturb colleagues) to help 'wake' up from the low mood. Thankfully, in my line of work I can get away with 'warming up' slowly in the day…. I find the dusk period worst of all (at weekends and not at work), so I shut the curtains, light lots of cosy side lights and candles and that helps. Lots of rich food and comforting tea and good books etc.

    It's ironic – I'm a goth and love the dark and all that goes with it but even though I intellectually love it, my body clearly responds negatively to the darker months. As you say, we are all just animals and respond to the winter the same way.