Friday, 10 June 2011

SAD is BAD - no joke!

Our winter weather mostly is quite lovely with a chill in the air each morning and warm sunlight through the day, but the days much shorter than in Summer.

It’s dark when I get home from work so no more afternoons in the garden. With the sun rising later as well, I tend to sleep longer so all I have time for each morning is a coffee and shower then it’s in the car and off to work. I know I have little to complain about but I already wish Winter was over and it hardly even begun yet.

OK. I’m feeling sorry for myself. Can you hear the violins playing?

This happens every Winter. I get an overwhelming desire to hibernate until the longer days return or to retire and become a full-time gardener or to move back to North Queensland where the days stay long and warm all year round. Eventually I will retire and do exactly that - but not for a few years yet.

Today, a workmate who just happens to be a psychologist and therefore qualified to diagnose such things, told me it’s Seasonal Affective Disorder. S.A.D. It is a recognised condition.

As seasons change, there is a shift in our 'biological internal clocks' or circadian rhythms, due partly to the changes in sunlight patterns. This can cause our biological clocks to be out of step with our daily schedules.

It is more common and more severe the further one lives from the Equator. I didn’t feel this way when I lived in North Queensland. I would be hopeless living in South Australia, North America or Europe.

The symptoms experienced are:
• extreme tiredness and lack of energy;
• the need for more sleep;
• difficulty waking up in the morning;
• increased appetite (particularly with a craving for carbohydrates);
• weight gain;
• loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed;
• difficulty concentrating;
• body aches, often with no apparent reason and
• irritability.

 That’s me. I have all of those at the moment. I feel that way every Winter. In Spring I will spontaneously recover. I’ve always thought I just hated Winter and was a giant wimp.

Of course I am a giant wimp because compared to much of the world, our Winters are mild and I have little to complain about. I simply miss spending time in the garden after work each day.

Although it is not fully understood why shorter days can cause depression, it is thought a disruption in the body's biological clock changes the amount of melatonin (a hormone that has a role in sleep patterns and mood) and the amount of serotonin (a brain chemical that affects mood) produced by the body.

Apparently an effective form of treatment for SAD is bright light therapy. This involves being exposed to a bright light from a specially designed light box. Often as little as 30 minutes a day will produce a marked improvement in mood and general well-being after a few days.

As well as the conventional treatments for depression such as antidepressant medicines or counselling, increased exercise and spending as much time as possible out of doors will help those with a mild attack of SAD.

Self-help for SAD
Increase sunlight exposure (gardening)
Exercise - preferably outdoors (gardening)
Attention to diet (eat produce from the garden)
Move to to the Tropics!


    1. SAD is a pain in the butt!! I don't have it but know people who do. I crave natural light in the winter, esp. when I get to work in the dark and leave in the dark. I feel like a mole. Hang in there!! Maybe trying a special light for folks with SAD can help. I've heard they're effective.

    2. Well even up here in the tropics I start work in the dark (7am!) I do get home in time for a walk on the beach every afternoon though, so not complaining. I am also enjoying the respite from the humidity. You might check if you need to take vitamin D supplements - I couldn't believe that I needed them up here, but it has made a world of difference. Hope your long weekend makes up for it, and you can spend it all in the garden.

    3. Oh, I laughed at the sad, little face, how cute! Reading over the symptoms of SAD, it sounds like I'm afflicted, doesn't it? But this is our summertime and I shouldn't be gaining weight, craving carbs and be sleepy. I know how much I miss the garden in the wintertime, it's almost a physical craving/longing to be back out there, working with the flowers. Sometimes we visit greenhouses in the dead of winter just to see the flowers. I hope you feel better very soon! And thank you so much for your kind comments on my polar bear situation. I'm working on finding a new md.

    4. I have a friend with SAD and it is difficult being with her in winter. She takes meds too, but they seem to help very little.

    5. Sad, Interesting! Makes sense though. I find it so hard to get motivated in Winter! I too have had enough of a play with the cold weather, bring on SPRING!

    6. Very interesting and informative article indeed. I have to admit that I always follow all news about this, so it was quite interesting to read this your post about this subject. Reading this your entry I have even noticed some new information which I haven’t known before. Thanks a lot for sharing this interesting post and I will be waiting for other great news from you in the nearest future.

    7. I do get SAD too during our winter. Our winter starts in November and ends sometime in April. During November & December I am too busy with Christmas preparations (tree farm & wreath making) to be bothered by it, but come January, all I want to do is hibernate. My grandmother used to say January was her vacation month. A time just for her to sit and crochet, do some baking and some reading. No weeds to pull, grass to cut, produce to can, preserve, & freeze.

    8. Oh dear! That's really S.A.D. I may have some of those symptoms a few years ago although we don't have seasons here. Gardening and blogging seems to cheer me up a lot. I believe the sun would be better than the med.

      I like the photo of the baby. Sooooo cute.


    I would love to know what you think and appreciate your comments.


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