Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as SAD, is a condition misunderstood by many. Another term for the illness is the “winter blues,” but this trivializes the issue and leads to misconceptions. SAD isn’t a simple case of people feeling a little sad or lethargic because it is no longer summer anymore. SAD is a serious condition that can disrupt the lives of many sufferers.
They struggle with energy levels, motivation, appetite and more. Some people express symptoms of depression. Then other people are more afflicted by cognitive dysfunction and fatigue. Furthermore, it doesn’t wait until winter to strike. Many people with SAD, or related conditions, begin to feel the onset in the fall.
The combination of a lack of understanding and the varying symptoms mean different needs from different patients. There is no one-size-fits-all solution or magic pill to take at a certain date. Multiple solutions suggest creating a personalized routine of self-care solutions in advance. Starting a daily routine can help sufferers manage their condition, especially given enough lead time.
In this guide, we will look at some of the factors to include in this routine for a better experience this fall. We will also look at the problems with conventional treatments and the need for this simple, self-regulated response.
How To Start A SAD Prevention Routine
A personalized routine, from late summer, may help those struggling with conventional methods.
Many people with Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD-like symptoms are lucky in at least one respect. They tend to know when their symptoms are most likely to start up. For many people, the shortening days of fall are enough to trigger the onset of SAD.
Some people suffer around the changing of the clocks in October. This period means a sudden shift in light levels. The early dark evenings make it seem like the long cold winter is upon us. Still, the date and severity of the condition can vary from person to person.
An understanding doctor may be able to help, by providing recommendations for dietary changes, supplements, and light therapy. But, be aware that you may need to deviate from their template and discuss other options if the basics prove ineffective. Also, know that the most extreme solutions aren’t for everyone.
Current Treatment Trend
At the moment, many SAD patients have the chance to try Antidepressants and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). This may help those with severe depression that struggle to function. Then help for those with underlying other mental health issues. There are many with mild forms of SAD or the related symptoms, that can use a more natural approach.
Stay away from the extreme options and look at a new personalized routine to help manage Seasonal Affective Disorder on a daily basis.
Antidepressants and CBT can help in some cases, but this is a big leap for those that could benefit from a more natural, less invasive solution. The best approach is to make small, subtle changes to your lifestyle and establish an easy to follow SAD-friendly routine early on.
The habits that you start before October can allow for a little structure once the clocks change and winter starts to appear.
How Important Is The Light Around You?
The first thing that you can do to help prevent a bad crash into SAD is to prepare for the changing light. Start off by working with light levels and adapting them to improve your symptoms. This means preparing for the lack of light in the evening and gradually darkening mornings. At its core, SAD comes down to the way that the loss of light affects hormone levels in the body.
Here are different measures that can help:
1) Artificial light simulators
These light simulators are one of the main forms of alternative therapy recommended by doctors treating SAD. They help to provide the right type of light, at the right time of day, to help regulate hormones and maintain a productive routine. Some people sit by light boxes in the morning to help them start the day when it is still dark outside. There are also alarms with sunrise and sunset for improved light regulation in bedrooms.
2) Vitamin D supplementation
Vitamin D is another common option recommended by medics. Many Americans are vitamin D deficient anyway so that supplementation will do little harm. These capsules should replace vitamin levels lost with the lack of sunshine and help users find the energy to manage the day.
3) Light filters on devices when working at night
This is an important part of sleep hygiene, whatever the time of year. The blue light from laptops and phones messes with biological clocks and sleep patterns. A good night’s sleep is essential when dealing with SAD. This is a problem when working by blue light in a dark evening, rather than natural light on a summers evening. Apps and filters can help.
A Good Night Of Sleep
Because sleep is such an important factor in regulating Seasonal Affective Disorder and mental health, there are other nighttime tools to consider. Remember that this idea of a long-standing routine should extend across the whole day, every day. Therefore, it also helps to consider the following.
1) A new bedtime routine
Pick an appropriate time to go to bed each night and stick to it. With time, your body should get used to the pattern and wake up refreshed at the right time the next morning. This should help when struggling to get out of bed. This new bedtime routine can also include a better sleep hygiene system. Try new black-out curtains, a cup of herbal tea and some screen-free time before turning out the lights.
2) Nighttime supplements
Some people who are struggling with this disrupted sleeping pattern like to turn to supplements to help. This means a little more than some herbal tea. There are capsules for melanin and Valerian that can prove useful. Always check with medical professionals before starting a new program of supplements or making drastic dietary changes. Also, be careful with dosages of supplements.
Morning Wake-Up Routine
Mornings can be a SAD sufferer’s friends, for those able to meet it and their perspective on the availability of sunlight. For a while in fall, there is a little more light in the mornings before work. Where possible it can help to make the most of that sunlight in these early hours. This won’t last forever, as the winter will soon darken the skies. Summertime is the perfect period to strengthen a new SAD, friendly routine and control symptoms before winter hits.
1) Set morning wake up time
Just as you can benefit greatly from a new, regular bedtime each night, you can also improve your mornings with the same wake-up time. An alert from one of those sunrise simulators should make this easier and more enjoyable.
2) A gentle self-care routine
This light therapy should be part of a good self-care routine in the morning. There is no need to rush around as the sun rises and risk missing out on the best part of the day. Use the light therapy, take your supplements and then enjoy the time. Savor the morning coffee, read the papers, put on your make up, listen to uplifting songs. It doesn’t matter what the routine is, as long as it is something to look forward to.
3) Take daily morning walks
It also helps to add a morning walk into this new routine. The extent of the activity here depends on you and your schedule. It could be a simple walk in the morning sun around the garden, a quick trip to a neighborhood coffee house or a long walk in the park. Morning exercise is the best way to get active, benefit from the sun, and start the day right.
This morning walks can also mean some time with nature – something else that is an excellent part of a new Seasonal Affective Disorder regime.
Many people suffering from depression, SAD, and other related conditions find that they respond well to the natural world. Therefore, a little time with nature each day could help to alleviate some of the symptoms.
There are different ways that you could add this to your new SAD morning walk regime.
1) Listen to the dawn chorus
Enjoy listening to your surroundings is a great way to make the most of those morning walks, wherever you go. You can sit outside in the garden and listen to the birds nearby, or you can do so in the park. Just take the time to stop and listen and watch the things going on around you.
2) Look for local wildlife
A chance encounter with a wild creature can lift the spirits. People that make a plan to do something in the wild and find nature each day have a higher motivation to start the day. You can do this before work or during a lunch break. You could even embrace the darker evenings to look for nocturnal animals.
3) Keep a nature journal
Wherever you go, and whatever you find, make a note of it. A nature journal is a great way to record everything that you have seen over this period of SAD. It is something to look back on when winter is over like a log of the efforts taken and sights enjoyed.
Also a review of what worked to combat SAD and things you may want to change next year. This nature journal leads to the benefit of journalling and mental health care more generally.
Alternative Morning Option
If a morning walk isn’t appropriate, try something else.
1) A gym workout
The beginning of October is the ideal time to get back to the gym if you weren’t too active their over summer. Reacquaint yourself with the machines you like, set a routine and some goals. A training program will help you feel productive on darker mornings.
Alternatively, why not get into some yoga. It is easy to learn some basic poses to help with balance, flexibility and core strength. The time on the mat has a calming and relaxing effect that will have a positive effect for SAD sufferers.
3) A new diet plan
Finally, this is also the ideal time to try and get back into healthy eating. Look up seasonal produce for October and learn some recipes. Stay hydrated and try and stay away from too many carbs and calories.
It all comes down to starting a routine and sticking with it for the whole of fall and winter.
The bottom line with SAD is that this is a mental health condition as much as a physiological one. We can use supplements and light therapy to handle some of the physical issues. However, if there are deeper problems like depression symptoms those can be hard to manage. Just know many of the outdoor activities and journalling tools may help, if not see your physician about medication options.
1) Keep a daily journal
Keeping a journal of the day’s achievement and gratitude can help. Journalling helps SAD sufferers to find some perspective on the day, especially if they felt unproductive or struggling. This is also a great place to unload any negative feelings or worries.
Meditating is something we should all try and add to our days to de-stress and take a break from the world. Again, the sooner you add this to your daily routine, the easier it will be to implement it when the SAD strikes.
Physical care is as important as mental health care with Seasonal Affective Disorder management.
Your morning walk in the sun is great for both physical and mental health. Exercise helps to keep us fit and active, burning off some of the calories that may come from SAD-related comfort eating. It also releases hormones that help with stress and increase happiness.
Make a Seasonal Affective Disorder plan at the end of the summer and work out the kinks for a couple of weeks. You should become settled into a system by the time the clocks change. There may be a few setbacks here and there as you adjust. But your new, strong regime should stop you from slipping into depression and other issues. Continue the process through winter, strengthening factors where possible.
You can bring together elements of this guide, or use it to create something better suited to your lifestyle and preferences. Set a new morning alarm for every day. Take time to exercise, have a healthy breakfast, take your supplements and hydrate yourself.
Have a productive day as much as the condition will allow. At night, use self-care and a regular bedtime to get past the dark evenings and sleep well. Spend the last hour away from screens by reading or writing in your journal.
Whatever you choose to do, focus on it and work at building the habits. The more you stick to the plan, the easier it becomes.