Financial struggles, conversations that surround January, or an unexplainable feeling of sadness can contribute to the winter months being difficult.
The weather is taking its yearly dip and for around 3% of the UK population, who have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this proves to be an extremely challenging time of year.
Persistent low mood, irritability, weight gain and feeling lethargic are common symptoms of SAD, the NHS outlines.
Although SAD can be experienced during any season it is most common to experience it during the winter months, with January often being labelled as the most difficult. But like many things in life, it can come and go, like the seasons.
The causes aren’t completely clear, says mental health charity MIND, but there are a few key things that could contribute to Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Commuting to work when it’s dark out, only to return when it’s dark can take a toll on your mind. If there isn’t enough light it begins to affect the part of your brain that controls sleep, appetite, sex drive, temperature, mood, and activity, says MIND.
Many sufferers and experts of SAD have described the disorder as an human need to hibernate whilst we experience limited sunlight. MIND say this is because when it’s dark your brain produces a hormone called melatonin.
Melatonin helps your body get ready for sleep; those with SAD produce significantly higher levels of this hormone during winter, much like animals when they hibernate.
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*This sections of the article talks about depression, which we understand may be triggering for some.*
These symptoms and causes can feel more intense whilst we are being told to limit unnecessary social meetings and to work from home. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and loss of a routine, symptoms which are often found in people who experience SAD and depression.
Many people struggle with depression each year but feel unable to seek help; it’s time we invest in our mental health services and do what we can to end the stigma around it.
Through talking about it openly about our feelings in places of work, at home, with a loved one or online, we can start to normalise low moods and relate to one another as humans who experience ups and downs.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please don’t think you’re alone.
There are free services at your disposal, or make an appointment to see your GP.
Samaritans – 24 hours a day 365 days a year, free to call on 116 123.
SANEline – 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm – 10.30pm every day)
National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK – 0800 689 5652 (open 24/7)
Campaign Against Living Miserably – Call on 0800 58 58 58 or use the CALM web chat service.