Do you find your mood goes down as the days get colder and darker?
Everyone’s mood is impacted by different things.
But it’s not uncommon that when the fall season comes around, moods can start to go down.
Maybe you’re feeling more tired than usual.
Maybe you’re having a hard time keeping up at work or with your family life.
Maybe you’re not sleeping as well as normal.
Or maybe you’re just feeling low, sad, or even depressed.
You’ve probably heard of seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD).
If you typically notice a change in your mood or depression around the same time every year, and you notice that your mood lightens when the weather picks up and the days get longer again, you might have SAD.
Most people with SAD start to notice an increase in low mood or depression symptoms in the fall, and then they tend to start feeling better in the spring.
If you’ve previously been diagnosed with depression of any type, you’re more likely to experience SAD. But you don’t need to have depression to have SAD.
What Does SAD Look Like?
If you notice every year that some (maybe all) of the following symptoms start creeping up as fall settles in, you might be experiencing SAD.
- Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day
- Lost interest in activities that you used to enjoy
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Appetite changes, often craving more starches
- Having thoughts about not wanting to live, or suicidal ideation
What To Do About It?
Knowing that you’re prone to SAD is a very important first step. This will help you get some habits in place while you’re still feeling engaged and enthusiastic.
- Exercise is one of THE most helpful tools against any low mood or depression, even though it can be the very last thing you want to do when you’re not feeling in the mood.
- If exercise is already a part of your routine, it’s more likely to stay on, even when you aren’t feeling up to it
- Don’t feel like you always need to push yourself. I say exercise, but really just focusing on movement is where it’s at. Even a casual walk counts!
- Eating healthy food that makes you feel great will help keep your mood consistent.
- Meal planning is your best friend. Planning your meals takes the decision out of what you should eat, and can keep you eating great food even if you don’t always feel like it.
- Limit your sugar intake. When you’re feeling low, sugar can be a go-to comfort food, but too much of it will increase your overall carb cravings. Also – when you eat lots of sugar and your blood sugar spikes, it can causes massive crashes and spikes, which will lead to you feeling worse. You don’t need to avoid sugar completely (although if you can, that might help), but really being aware of when and how you eat it can help keep your mood steadier.
People struggling with low moods can sometimes find themselves sleeping too much, or not enough. If you suffer from SAD, sleep should be a top priority for you. These are some simple steps I can recommend to help you keep your sleep consistent.
- Go to bed at the same time every night, and get up at the same time every day. Even if you feel like going to bed later or getting up later, keeping a consistent sleep schedule will not only help keep your sleep on track, it will also help keep your moods consistent.
- Move every day. Not only is this one of the best recommendations for sleep, it’s also an incredible recommendation for low moods in general.
- Get some light on your face in the morning. Natural is great, but not the only option. Actually, even screens can be a life saver in the morning. Your phone and computer have high amounts of blue light coming from them (unless they’re being filtered out – something to check on), so they can actually help wake your brain up in the morning.
- If you can keep your morning light exposure happening at roughly the same time every day, that can be helpful too.
- You can buy special lights that will hit your eyes with the same wavelength as sunlight, but if you don’t have access to that light, no need to worry.
A quick little back story on vitamin D – it is a fat-soluble vitamin, that we eat (a little bit of), but the bulk of it comes from our skin. UV rays from the sun do some magic, and they activate the vitamin D that our body needs. It’s pretty well known that most people who live in the northern hemisphere (and have to cover up most of their body for most of the year) are deficient in vitamin D.
So, does low vitamin D cause SAD?
There’s really no way of knowing.
But if you are experiencing SAD, it’s worth asking your doctor to check your vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D can be associated/a risk factor for all sorts of things, so sorting that out if you can is advisable.
If you do have low levels and are planning to supplement, aim for a minimum of 1000 IU of vitamin D each day (although your doctor might recommend you take more).
And the best form? In my opinion it’s a liquid form that’s emulsified in fat. A fat-soluble vitamin delivered in fat is going to be more readily absorbed by the body.
SAD might be more common than you think. Somewhere between 10 and 20% of the population experience symptoms associated with SAD.
But while SAD is very common, moods can shift at other times of the year too. Some people find spring and summer more difficult with their moods when the weather actually gets nicer and their social calendar starts filling up again. An increase in a social calendar can cause a lot of stress and increase anxiety.
No matter what your challenging season is, following those small habits can help keep your moods more consistent over time. And if you need some help specifically with your sleep, or getting these habits put into place, book your Sleep Assessment Call here.