Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD) impacts a great number of us, and starts to kick in around this time of year. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a term used to describe a condition in which you feel low in mood, and in which existing mental health problems become more intense during the winter months.
SAD is such a natural thing to be inflicted by. As humans, we're used to living in a circadian rhythm, which essentially refers to the idea that we rise with the sun and go to sleep with it too. We also used to spend the majority of our time outside, hunting and gathering and all that kinda jazz. With modern work days often forcing us to leave the house in the dark and come home in the dark, our bodies are totally out of sync with their natural rhythms, and as a result, our mental health suffers.
Whilst it feels like so many people are welcoming Autumn in with open arms, the start of this season can bring with it a heightened anxiety in people suffering from SAD. So, here are a few things you can do to help a friend or loved one suffering, or yourself!
1.) Keep in touch. Summer seems to be the time for lots of activities and get-togethers, and it can make Autumn/Winter feel a little more lonely. Give someone a ring, Facetime them or just catch up with a message on Whatsapp. Remind them that you're thinking about them, and that the start of darker evenings doesn't mean that you can't hang out or have fun.
2.) Make your home more hygge. This obvs is one to help someone you're living with rather than a friend. Get all the cosy throws out, pop fairy lights around the place and take time out of your day together to have a hot drink and mull things over.
3.) Talk about SAD itself. Read up on what it is and the symptoms of it. If your friend/family member seems to always get really low in mood, tired and irritable around this time of year, talk to them about the possibility that they may be suffering from SAD, and whether they would benefit from visiting a doctor.
4.) Buy a SAD lamp or Lumie light. This isn't a #spon (although I wouldn't be adverse to the idea because I LOVE my Lumie clock). SAD lamps are a form of light therapy that can help sufferers to boost their mood. Me and my partner have a Lumie light and it's wonderful for fighting that feeling of utter dread when you have to force yourself out of bed on a dark winter morning. You set yourself an alarm (which FYI you don't actually have to have a noise for, which I adore), pop it on each evening, and in the morning the light will start to get brighter half an hour before your alarm is due to go off. In this way, it mimics a sunrise and helps you wake up a little perkier because your body feels as though it's getting a proper rhythm of waking up as the day gets brighter. You can also do the opposite in the evening to mimic a sunset.
5.) Open all the curtains/blinds in the house. This is such a tiny thing that you can do, but it makes a massive difference. Days are getting shorter, and the more natural light you have shining into your home, the better.
6.) Let someone be sad. This is sad as in unhappy this time. It's okay to feel shitty over the next few months. Let your friend, partner, co-worker or whoever it is cry it out with you. Be that shoulder to lean on, have a cup of tea and watch a cute film. Whatever you can do to help, even if it's just being there to make sure they get up in the mornings, do it.
7.) And then help them to change things. Mental illnesses are tough and unavoidable, but there are things you can do to improve things. Whether it's actually going to see what a GP can do to help, or joining a club that they've been wanting to join for months, see exactly what your friend would like to do to make things a little easier.