Do you Suffer from SAD? 
Are you missing the sun? I don't know about you, but I always find my energy levels and mood become lower during the short, grey days of winter. Our Guest blogger, Holistic Therapist, Helen Buckley, was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder in her teens. She shares some of her thoughts and tactics on this common problem here. 
 
Season Affective Disorder or more commonly known as SAD is described as a form of depression that has a seasonal trend. It is estimated that 29% of the population suffer from it with women 40% more like to suffer from it. Of the population 8% suffer from acute symptoms and the remaining 21% of sufferers with mild symptoms. 
 
Symptoms tend to increase during the winter months with some rare occasions of summer months causing SAD symptoms. The cause is thought to be the reduced hours of sunlight that increases the production of melatonin which increases the requirement to sleep, lowers serotonin which increases appetite and disrupts the body’s internal body clock normally regulated by the sun rise and set. 
 
Symptoms 
Officially symptoms tend to be: 
Lower mood over a persistent period of time. 
Feeling of worthlessness and despair 
Loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities, 
Increased lethargy and feeling sleepy during the day, 
Sleeping for longer periods of time and difficulty in getting up in the morning. 
Increased appetite 
 
Diagnosis 
Diagnosis normally takes over a period of time with a pattern of symptoms with a trend throughout the year and treatment is varied.  
 
I can only speak for myself, what I have found useful and my journey learning to live with it and embracing it as a part of me. I cannot speak for everyone else. I suggest that you find what works for you and if for one year it doesn’t work review and if you feel you need to, change it. You know your body and learn to trust yourself that you know what is best for it and you. 
 
My journey started during my early teens. At this time, I was training heavily, often twice a day. Over a couple of years my mother noticed I would tend to be low during the winter months and thought my iron levels were possibly low so arranged visits to the GP for tests. These were completed and levels found to be normal.  
 
This occurred for a couple more years, where I was sent for x-rays and further blood tests. During one GP appointment she mentioned that there seemed to be a pattern and the GP subsequently diagnosed me with SAD. I left the GP office with no knowledge about what it meant and, in all honesty, I don’t think either of my parents knew either. 
 
I progressed through my teen and twenty years, dreading the winter months and yet instinctively knowing I would normally feel better if I ate well and continued to exercise. It is a common misconception that people who regularly exercise find it easy to keep going. That is false. I would force myself to exercise every day, sometimes allowing myself a minimum of 20mins because I knew if I didn’t, I would feel terrible the next day. It would not be a love of exercise more of a fear of how bad I would feel if I did not. 
 
As I left university and found my first job, I experienced one of my worse winters and visited the GP. I was prescribed antidepressants and lasted a total of 7days before the side effects were too much and I stopped taking them. I started investigating what SAD actually was and how to cope with it naturally. 
 
I would class my symptoms as mild. I know my strengths and I know my weak points and I plan for them. I will split my tools into groups. 
 
Plan and prepare 
I know when my ultimate low months are and I plan for them. I joke with close friends and say I don’t do January and February. That really is not a joke. For those two months I survive and I expect the absolute minimum from my body.  
 
I do not participate in New Year's resolutions; I allow myself to feel and heal. I see it as a time to withdraw and to recuperate for the months to come. I sleep on average 8 to 10 hours a day. Family life demands I keep to a minimum and I regularly keep weekends free if I can. 
 
I know if I have things to look forward to it keeps me going so, I have major celebrations such as Halloween, Winter solstice, Christmas, Family birthdays and, finally, the coming of Spring. Without my steps to the Spring I feel lost. 
 
In contrast during the summer months I will regularly function well on 5 hours sleep and have countless energy. Between the two there is a happy medium I am sure.! 
 
 
 
Helen Buckley is a Holistic Therapist working from her clinic in Northamptonshire. She takes great pride in "walking her talk", living a life where she feels connected to nature and she is also the area co-ordinator for the Federation of Holistic Therapists. 
Helen lives with her family in a Northamptonshire village and when she is not working, can be found tending her chickens, foraging in the hedgerows, working on her allotment or running in the countryside with her dog. 

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