I’m delighted to have Rachel on the blog today. She is one of my absolute favourite bloggers, and I highly recommend you check her out, if you haven’t already.
We thought it would be interesting to interview each other about a specific mental health issue. In this post, Rachel will be talking about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and my interview about emetophobia (fear of vomiting) will be going up on her blog soon.
Can you explain SAD and how it affects you?
SAD is type of depression which is prevalent in the Autumn/Winter months. It is believed to be caused by the lack of sunlight at this time of year which affects the body’s production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy) and serotonin (which affects your mood). For me SAD is characterised by a complete lack of motivation to do anything. When the days get shorter and darker my mood plummets and I find it hard to make myself eat sufficiently or look after myself properly.
What is the main thing about SAD you wish more people understood?
I wish people understood that SAD is real for a start. I’ve mentioned it to many people who question its existence which is really hard to hear when Autumn/Winter fills you with dread.
Are there any common misconceptions about SAD?
I think SAD is often seen as simple winter blues. It’s harder to get up in the mornings and it’s dark and cold all the time, and everybody feels happier when the sun is shining. But SAD is much more than just wishing it was sunny.
What are your top tips for anyone else struggling with SAD?
Getting exercise is crucial. Just with all types of depression, it’s so easy to stay in bed all day and not want to face the world but you absolutely will feel better if you get some fresh air.
What do you do to make things easier for yourself on difficult days?
If it’s a day off from uni/placement I listen to whatever my body wants and needs. If I want to stay in bed all day and rest I will do but I’ll try to make sure I don’t just sleep because that’s not good for you! I’ll have a nice bath and make a coffee and try to take everything as easy as possible.
If it’s a uni day I’ll try to make sure I treat myself where possible. Sometimes with SAD it’s really hard to motivate yourself to do any kind of forward planning, so when I might not be able to be bothered to make lunch the night before I’ll make sure to treat myself to a nice lunch at uni. It’s all about appreciating and looking for the little things!
Have you found any benefit in special lamps/alarm clocks?
I use a Lumie alarm clock. This will be the second year I’ve had it through the Winter and I really think it makes a difference. The light starts to come on 30 minutes before my alarm goes off so that I never wake up in total darkness so it really helps me feel less lethargic in the mornings.
Is there a particular product or app you think would help you?
I talk about this app all the time and while it’s not SAD specific I find it really helpful. Pacifica is a mood tracker app and I find it really useful for tracking how I’m feeling each day. Sometimes it’s clear that my mood is worse at the start of the week so I think about ways I change my Sundays so that I’m not dreading a dark start on Monday that follows me throughout the week.
Do you find you struggle more with your mental health in general in winter months? For example, do you find yourself more anxious, and if so, do you think this is linked to SAD?
Definitely. I go out a lot less in the Winter months and that only makes it more difficult and anxiety inducing when I do go out.
How can other people help you during difficult times?
As much as I’d rather be left completely on my own from about October to March I know that’s not helpful. So I just want people to treat me like they would any other time of year except to be mindful that I’m probably not going to want to go out as much or socialise as frequently.
Any final words of advice to anyone struggling?
SAD is a real disorder so don’t be worried about getting help for it.
You can find the lovely Rachel at No Space For Milk.