It’s OK To Say: Tackling Seasonal Affective Disorder and overcoming winter depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in the dark, winter months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is common in the dark, winter months. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

SAD effectively limits a person’s life within a seasonal pattern.

While it is also known as "winter depression", a few people also experience it in the summer. Some people are more prone to SAD, as it can run in families, however it can hit anyone at any time, sometimes triggered by something else and can reappear at times of change, stress and overwhelming situations.

While the exact cause is unknown, it is linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the wintery months. The trigger from other things can stem from someone shutting themselves away, reducing their exposure and therefore sometimes misdiagnosed.

The underpinning factor here is that it is a form of depression and therefore may be treated in a similar way. However, it is helpful to pinpoint SAD or have a consideration that it may be the condition, as treatment like light therapy can be introduced.

Many people respond to treatments that correlate with the five senses, as they play a role in adjusting mood, calming and causing a response unique to each person.

Poor smelling ability can be a symptom of ageing or a medical condition and draw attention to a potential diagnosis of schizophrenia and depression. Taste is divided into four different tastes, being salty, sweet, sour and bitter with a fifth taste, savoury. A fascinating fact is that spicy is actually a pain signal!

In addition to the main five senses, we also have a sixth sense and this is proprioception, which allows coordinated movement of the limbs and muscles. It is the reason you can touch your finger to the tip of your nose and move without looking.

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Every sense plays a vital role in our everyday life as each sense communicates with the brain, allowing us to respond and make decisions. You can look at the five senses as a puppet adjusting our strings with many lifestyle factors causing havoc. Environmental influences alter the ability to respond, so in return you get a stress response.

With SAD and any other similar condition, it is important to introduce things to appeal to these senses to stimulate them, altering our mood and perceptions, giving us a boost. Think of it like a battery charger, the stimulants are the charger. Senses are also responsible for memories.

Why am I explaining all this? Since we rely on our powerful six senses to get us though each day, we need to look after them and nurture them to feel and be happy.

If I ask you to close your eyes and I say touch, what comes to mind? I think of a soft fabric that makes me feel cosy.

Sight - what pleases you or what enhances your experience visually? This might be something such as colour, a coloured layer or a different font can aid reading and learning, or a picture of a loved one. Hearing, do you find music therapeutic? Smell, what about aromatherapy and coffee beans! Taste, certain foods that remain your favourite that are comforting.

In most situations you experience quite a few at the same time, as each one interconnects allowing you the opportunity to understand how you're feeling.

Being mindful of what we can put in place to help us cope are all valuable things for consideration. They make a huge difference to how we feel and present ourselves in the world, adjusting to things, and responding going about our daily lives.

Comfort box time! Think about a little something for each sense that you can draw on when you need comfort, a few things to help are, light therapy, a weighted blanket, holistic therapies, meditation and talk therapies.

Finally, please always consult with your GP or speak with a professional. There are many helpful suggestions, and SAD is a recognised condition that with help, you can manage.