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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Working with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – How to Stop the Clocks Going Back from Controlling your Mood.

Studies in the UK show that up to 25% of people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), with about a quarter of that group suffering it badly.  The problem is worst in the Autumn and Winter months, especially after the clocks go back.  2012 has been a very rainy and overcast year so the problem will probably be worse than normal.  

As society has moved away from jobs that are outside in the sunlight the incidence of SAD has risen.  The problem is caused by a serotonin deficiency due to there being less light entering the eye.  Although people who suffer it can feel things getting marginally worse, it can often just hit them all of a sudden. It can feel a bit like Summer one day and Winter the next.  SAD can badly hamper a sufferer’s ability to cope on a day to day basis. It causes a variety of problems such as depression, eating and sleep problems, anxiety, poor concentration, low libido, a weakened immune system, mood swings, social difficulty, tiredness and a variety of behavioural and physical problems.  If you tend to suffer from mood swings or lowness anyway, then SAD is only going to make things worse.

There is a positive side to this - there are ways that you can help to overcome SAD, otherwise known as “The Winter Blues.”

1.      Finding Time with Loved Ones and Pets
If you have people in your life that make you feel happy, bring you some joy, relax you or make you laugh, then you should try to spend more time with them when you are suffering from SAD.  Pets are also great for making us feel better at any time but particularly when we feel bluesy. 

2.      Listen to Uplifting Music
Cheerful music can really raise your mood and make you more open to life.  Singing along to jangly pop songs in the car or to songs that you associate with happy moments in your life can have a marvellous mood enhancing affect.  For some people, classical music can be very de-stressing – even if they would not normally choose it.

3.      Go to a Counsellor
Talking about your issues with an experienced counsellor can be a tremendous release and they will be able to help you look at and find options for dealing with it.  I use many different strategies for helping people deal with depression and low mood.  It is also likely that there are other issues behind the SAD, and that these make the emotional lowness worse.  I can help you to explore that and support you in working through it.

4.      Get Better Sleep
It is not surprising that poor sleep can affect us badly.  I have written a previous article about ways to help with better sleep and can certainly work with you on this.  If you manage to sleep better you will find that the symptoms of SAD are reduced.

5.      Light Therapy
Lack of light is said to be the basic cause of the problem, so experts have suggested that additional light is also the cure. You can buy special light boxes which can boost serotonin levels and it may be a good idea to simply spend more time outside.  If it’s raining this may not seem very pleasant, but even poor outdoor light is better than no outdoor light.

6.      Make a Diet Change
Diet can get out of balance very quickly, particularly in the winter months and the festive season, when we might over-indulge a bit more for celebration or comfort.  Sugary, spicy or fatty foods can be very bad whilst raw and wholemeal foods and foods containing lots of vitamins and minerals can be very good.  Some herbal teas are excellent for mood and health – these include chamomile, spearmint and peppermint.

7.      Exercise More and Maintain Your Sex Life
Exercise is a good way of boosting your mood – in the short term, at least - as it releases endorphins and gets your heart pumping.  Dancing is particularly good for mood lifting as it can feel joyous, and swimming helps you to feel spiritually and physically supported.  A walk in nature can connect us to something outside of ourselves.  It is no surprise that regular sex can help you to feel better.  SAD can lower your libido and make you feel very unsexual, but you may be surprised that going ahead and having it anyway will boost your endorphins, release some tension and help you to feel connected to someone, more alive and loved.

8.      Consider Alternative Therapies
Massage, acupuncture and EFT (tapping) can be good for helping with a brighter mood.  Some aromatherapy oils such as Bergamot and Neroli can create an uplifting atmosphere whether you burn them or put a few drops in the bath. 

If you are suffering from SAD this Autumn and Winter, don’t wait until it gets really bad.  Try one of the above options to help you through it.

David is a fully qualified and BACP registered Counsellor.  If you wish to book a session to help you with SAD or another issue in your life, you can book a face to face, telephone, email or skype session with him by ringing 07578 100256 or emailing him at  You can also follow him on Twitter as Contented Counsellor at: